Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has taken up arms against the Russian military in his country’s capital, saying resistance fighters are ready to hold out “forever”.
The 56-year-old, who led Ukraine from 2014 to 2019, brandished a Kalashnikov rifle during an interview with CNN’s John Berman on Friday as an example of the weapons at their disposal. Poroshenko said the men around him had no access to heavy artillery like tanks as Russia attacked Kiev.
“I think Putin will never catch Ukraine no matter how many soldiers he has, how many missiles he has, how many nuclear weapons he has,” Poroshenko said from a street in Kyiv.
“We Ukrainians are free people,” he said.
Poroshenko waved to people around him and described them as ordinary citizens who want to help fight – some have never served in the military – but he said there weren’t enough guns to equip them all.
Yet, he said, their willingness to show up is a “demonstration [of] how Ukrainians hate Putin and how we are against Russian aggression.
“It’s very clear,” he added.
CNN reported on Thursday that some US officials fear Kiev will fall to Russia within days. Russian troops captured the Chernobyl nuclear power plant north of Kiev on Thursday and took hostages there, according to the White House.
But Russian troops would have been less successful in their effort to seize a key airfield outside the capital.
Current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued an order earlier this week banning men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country, although they are not required to enlist. Many Ukrainians have chosen to take refuge in neighboring countries like Poland while the fighting unfolds. Meanwhile, some who remained in Kiev hid in underground metro stations – which were designed to serve as bomb shelters when they were built under the Soviet government.
Russian forces have entered Ukraine from almost all sides this week, prompting air raid sirens and reports of shelling across the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin has not made clear his ultimate goal in attacking his Democratic neighbor. He falsely claimed that Russian troops were needed to protect populations in parts of eastern Ukraine, but the fighting has spread far beyond that region.
Speaking from Kyiv, Poroshenko called Putin “simply crazy”.