Inexperienced civilians are at the forefront in defending Kiev

They distributed rifles, loaded them for us and here we are,” says Yuri Kortshemni, who had never held a weapon in his hands before joining a battalion of civilians ready to defend Kyiv meter by meter in front of the Russian enemy.

In full invasion of his country, when the first Russian forces needed less than 48 hours to infiltrate the capital, the 35-year-old historian did not hesitate.

Dozens of men from his neighborhood came like him to take a Kalashnikov rifle at a distribution point, a military truck full of boxes of weapons, he explains.

On Facebook and in the media, the Ministry of Defense multiplies calls for emergency enlistment in the “territorial defense” brigades, an institution created in 2015 to reinforce the regular army.

Currently it is enough to be between 18 and 60 years old and have a passport to enroll. No training is required.

“They gave us weapons at a military enlistment office. Now, the situation is such that we cannot wait for a call,” explains another volunteer, Volodimir Moguila.

The electrician, already a certain age and the rifle wobbling in his coat, rolls an old tire along the edge of a road to reinforce a makeshift barricade next to a Ukrainian tank.

yellow bracelet

Wearing jeans, sportswear, tennis shoes or mismatched uniforms, civilian “territorial defense” volunteers are now ubiquitous in the capital, even more visible than the regular military.

To recognize each other they wear a small yellow armband, sometimes just sticky tape, around their left arm.

In an almost ghostly city, his constant coming and going is obvious. The enemy’s siege tightens dangerously on the capital and everyone prepares for bloody combat.

But for now, the Russians, although very present in the surroundings, were only seen in some first furtive combats in the Obolon neighborhood, on Friday, in the north of Kiev.

The civilian volunteers of this district found themselves, much to their dismay, on the front lines. Its headquarters is located a few meters from the place where a commando of three supposedly Russian armored vehicles spread fear, opening fire on a civilian and crushing a car.

The bloodied victim still lies on the ground, under forensic examination, at the entrance to his headquarters.

few illusions

But the new recruits no longer pay him any attention, nervously receiving rudimentary accelerated military training in the adjacent parking lot.

“We have a very powerful enemy in front of us,” justifies its commander, with the nom de guerre “Bob”, a 51-year-old computer engineer with a penetrating blue gaze, with an assault rifle in his hands.

This weaponry “is not enough to stop helicopters, nor to deal with tanks,” he protests, asking the international community to supply weapons to his country.

“We have to stop Moscow, we have to stop the enemy,” he insists.

Volunteer Roman Bondertsev, who joined “not to sit idle at home” as Russia invaded his country, says he is ready to defend his city meter by meter, whatever the scenario. But he doesn’t have too many illusions either.

“I’ve never held a gun in my hands until today. We’ll try our best,” he replies with a shrug.

“And if they kill me, there will be two others ready to take my place,” he promises.

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