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Sviatoslav Yurash is well known in Ukraine. At 26, he is the country’s youngest member of parliament. Today, he is just one of thousands of Ukrainians to pick up a gun and help defend their country against a Russian attack.
“Everyone joins,” Sviat said. “We all take up arms.
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In fact, Ukrainian resistance to a better equipped Russian army has been impressive. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the Ukrainian soldiers were “truly proving their bravery and courage by fighting and opposing a much larger invading force”. The Ukrainian military itself has improved a lot since the Russians overthrew it in 2014, seizing two chunks of territory.
“They are responding exceptionally well to the horrors of Putin’s invasion,” said Peter Dickinson, a Kyiv-based analyst for the Atlantic Council. What they did was push back what analysts say is a Russian President Vladimir Putin dream of a fast Ukrainian takeover.
“Their plan was to quickly occupy the capital and install a puppet government,” according to Michailo Wynnycky, author of “Ukraine’s Maidan, Russia’s War.”
In an optimistic thought reminiscent of past incursions by great powers, Kremlin insiders seemed to expect their soldiers to receive flowers and praise.
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Instead, thanks to ubiquitous mobile phones in Ukraine, we saw videos of people standing in front of Russian tanks to halt their advance, of Ukrainian grannies and grandfathers lecturing young Russian soldiers on the street. , kids throwing their precious bikes under a marching military truck to divert them, and of course those brave defenders of the Black Sea Snake Island naval base telling a Russian battleship to “f— off!”
Yet the feeling one gets, watching the early days of this invasion, is that the Ukrainians are “playing for the most part”.
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Many of the recent skirmishes have been with Russian “saboteurs”, special forces and airborne soldiers flown in behind the lines, to cause trouble. The full force of Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers and armaments are still dutifully driving to their destinations, the first of which is the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.
“The fear is that Russian forces could go to indescribable lengths,” noted the Atlantic Council’s Dickinson, “mass killings…Syrian-style bombings.”
The meaning we have of the new national hero, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky, that is, if he can show the world a bit more of what Ukrainians are made of, he can try to “level the playing field”, including: putting in place anti-Russian sanctions ( the Swift international banking system is now about to be off limits for the Russians); reinforcement of Ukrainian military equipment (Germany eventually break down and actually allow lethal aid to be sent to Kyiv); and maybe even get the Russians to “talk” instead of “shoot” (negotiations are now underway for a site on the Ukraine-Belarus border between Kyiv and Moscow).
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But all of that would be too neat an end to a nasty threat from one of the world’s real villains, Vladimir Putin, who aims to make Ukraine a docile neighbor. Now he’s also talking about putting his nuclear forces on high alert, which is why 26-year-old Sviat roams the dark streets of Kiev these days, armed only with a long gun, looking for of Russian infiltrators.
Trying to thwart what he calls Putin’s “hope for a Blitzkrieg”. That is, he adds, “if we survive”.