The people of Kyiv organized a massive resistance effort to deter the Russian invasion. On the ninth day of the conflict, France 24 joined the civilian and military forces sworn to defend the Ukrainian capital against Putin’s army.
Trellis fencing, combat boots, and sleeping bags: Kostya Kravets tosses anything he thinks might be useful into two large black gym bags. The 43-year-old accountant knows that his regional defense unit needs anything and everything he can provide.
“The absolute priority right now is flak jackets and helmets. We also need drones, walkie-talkies and diesel generators,” Kravets told France 24, before leaving for his base in Tarasivkin, southwest of Kyiv. Every minute counts in the battle to fortify the capital and its surroundings.
Kostya Kravets (center) emerges from the Logistics Supply Base with two large suitcases for his Regional Defense Unit on March 3, 2022. © Mehdi Shebeil did not leave before the others entered the plain-looking building in Kyiv, which has now been turned into a beehive. of resistance operations. Entire rooms were set aside for storing medicines, water, clothes and electronics. Similar hubs have been opened around the capital since the beginning of the war. The sense of solidarity, the flow of donations, and the dedication of volunteers contain echoes of the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine in 2014 – a series of violent protests that toppled the Russian-backed government.
Today, the Leviathan of the Russian army may be in close proximity, but it has not affected the spirit of the resistance.
“We are 100% ready” “From a military perspective, we are 100% ready. The Russians will try to enter Kyiv, but they will realize that it is impossible … They swallow their own propaganda and think that the Ukrainians will welcome them with flowers,” said Serhiy Pretula, politician and actor former. Operation of the logistics center.
“The Russians still don’t understand where they are.”
Serhiy Priytoula shows the place where the Ukrainian army launched a counterattack in the Donbass region. Photo taken at an army supply base in Kyiv, March 3, 2022. © Mehdi Chebil Prytula, famous in Ukraine from TV shows such as The Voice, says there is a waiting list of “more than 1,500 people” for a bullet-proof vest. An international effort was created to transport large quantities of ballistic protection and other equipment from Poland through Lviv.
The effort among the volunteers meant that the Regional Defense Forces – the 2nd Kyiv Resistance Front – were being supplied with equipment. Civilian reserve forces received arms as soon as Russia invaded Ukraine.
We need a regional defense force so that the military can focus on combat operations. “The whole country is now part of the territorial defence,” says Pretola.
Volunteers dig trenches and prepare barricades to fortify a checkpoint in northern Kyiv on March 3, 2022. © Mehdi Chebil Reserve fighters, who wear yellow armbands, are omnipresent on the streets of Kyiv. It can be found in large numbers in the northern districts of the capital, where at the very beginning of the conflict the Russian reconnaissance fighters launched their first attacks.
Inexperienced but enthusiastic “Our goal is to check vehicles, check documents, search for saboteurs, enforce curfews, and prevent looting,” says Oleg, district supervisor in the North Kyiv Regional Defense. The 50-year-old businessman has the atmosphere of a typical rookie: inexperienced but enthusiastic. He was abroad when Russia invaded Ukraine, but soon returned to Kyiv by car to defend his country.
Oleg (center) is in charge of a regional defense checkpoint north of Kyiv. He stands here between his two sons, Ruslan and Dima, who are also reservists. © Mehdi Chebil “We have seen how the Russian world works. No choice, no elections, we must obey whoever is chosen in Moscow. Oleg is originally from eastern Ukraine and spent one year in the administrative regions administered by Luhansk separatists in the Donbass.
“Ukraine is free. It is a place where we can talk freely and disagree… We did not want war, but now we have no choice. We have to fight.”
‘We’re not going to stay at home’ is a view shared by a group in their twenties who came to help reinforce a checkpoint by digging trenches. The excavated land is then swept into white sacks and used to fortify the positions occupied by members of the territorial defense.
“My uncle has already registered. My friend and I called, and we’ve been to the recruitment center twice since the invasion began. We don’t want to stay home, we won’t stay at home,” says economics student Marina Mahdenko.
Marina Mahdenko, an economics student, is anxiously waiting for the call from the Regional Defense Recruitment Center where she has applied. Meanwhile, reservists are helping to fortify a checkpoint in northern Kyiv. © Mehdi Shebeil celebrated her 23rd birthday on 1 March, the same day Russian raids destroyed the Kyiv TV tower. While she was living near her house, she heard the explosions, which killed five people. For her and her friends, there is no way to spend the rest of their lives in a country subject to Moscow.
A scene of destruction near the Kyiv TV tower, which was hit by Russian cruise missiles on March 1. © Mehdi Chebil ‘We want to be on the side of the army’ This flood of volunteers joining the KDF has allowed the most experienced fighters to push the battle forward, knowing that someone has their backs.
“We want to be side by side with the army, attack and kill the invaders,” says one of these fighters, 54-year-old Evgeny Yarantsev.
It is stationed about 10 kilometers northeast of the Oleg and Marina checkpoint, near Hostomel Airport.
Yevgeny Yarantsev and his men from Konan’s unit, on the front line against Russian forces near Hostomil Airport, northeast of Kyiv. © Mehdi Chebil His forces were engaged in relentless fighting at the strategic location from the first day of the invasion, when Russian paratroopers attempted a surprise attack.
“Of the 200 air soldiers who tried to capture the airport so that the Russian planes could land here, two-thirds were killed and the rest in positions in the nearby woods… We did well in the first few days,” he says with a smile. To detect multiple gold teeth. However, the veteran expects a long and difficult war. Some members of his squad were killed and wounded; Yarantsev already had a minor injury to his left eye.
Yevgeny Yarantsev and his men from Konan’s unit, on the front line against Russian forces near Hostomil Airport, northeast of Kyiv. © Mehdi Chebil These losses have done little to dampen morale among soldiers, and these forces in particular share a long and bloody history. Most of them first met at the barricades during the Maidan Revolution before the formation of an independent force to fight the separatists, the pro-Russian forces in the Donbass.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine reunited them to fight the biggest battle of their lives. To mark the occasion, Yarantsev baptized the “Conan Unit” set after the 1982 movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan the Barbarian. Perhaps a harbinger of the upcoming epic battles.
This story has been translated from Theoriginalin French