With AK-47s & Molotov Cocktails, Ukrainian Civilians Pitch In to Defend Homeland

Celebrities, including a tennis star who once beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon, have also signed up to fight Russia.

4 min read
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"It's better than waiting at home and waiting for someone to hit us."

That is what one civilian had to say while standing in line of people collecting assault rifles at a distribution centre in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, the Ukrainian people have shown resistance of a ferocity that has taken observers of the war by awe.

Blocking Russian tanks by standing in front of them, preparing Molotov cocktails, and giving food and medical aid to Ukrainian soldiers have been some of the many ways in which ordinary Ukrainians have resisted.

One old woman even handed sunflower seeds to a Russian soldier, telling him that sunflowers will bloom on his corpse.

In the forefront has been President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has urged everyone to "join the struggle against the invaders". He has even banned men aged 18-60 to leave the country, so that they can fight for its survival.

An official working for Pentagon told The New York Times on 26 February that Russian troops are getting "increasingly frustrated by their lack of momentum", which is, in part, a product of civilian resistance.


'It's My Responsibility'

This won't the first time within the last few years that civilians have been forced to arm themselves.

Ukraine's military today consists of many soldiers who used to fight for the volunteer forces in eastern Ukraine back in 2014, when pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military violently clashed in the Donbas region after Russia annexed Crimea.

While talking to Vox, former Ukrainian economy minister Tymofiy Mylovanov said that "a lot of people who were volunteers in the front lines then, they’ve become battle commanders by now".

New and young volunteers are now joining the Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces (TDF), and are expected to defend their cities and safeguard key infrastructure.

Kalashnikov rifles, better known as AK-47, are being handed out, and before receiving them, volunteers are instructed to form ad hoc units with a commander.

On the first day of the invasion itself, 24 February, the Zelenskyy government distributed 70,000 AK-47 rifles to citizens, according to The New York Times.

The TDF units comprise men and women of all ages and backgrounds.

"When I heard the explosions I decided that I am ready," said a business manager who got an assault rifle to help defend Kyiv, The New York Times report added.

"I am adult woman, I am healthy and it’s my responsibility", Olena Sokolan added.

Those who are not picking up rifles are making Molotov cocktails.

Local residents in Uzhhorod, a city in the western part of the country, huddled outdoors with empty bottles of wine and vodka, something that was witnessed across the country.

On social media, tutorials on how to make Molotov cocktails are being posted.

Google searches for "how to make a Molotov cocktail" have spiked in country, according to a Washington Post report.

Radio stations are also broadcasting instructions on how to make incendiary weapons at home.


Celebrities Join the Armament

While many celebrities across the world have used social media to condemn Russia's attack on Ukraine, many Ukrainian celebrities have decided to replace words with weapons.

Some of them include an MP, a tennis player who once defeated Roger Federer at Wimbledon, and a former Ukrainian president.

Sergiy Stakhovsky, who upset tennis legend Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2013, said after joining Ukraine's reserve army that he would use a gun if necessary.

While talking to BBC Today, Stakhovsky said, "I know how to use the gun. I pretty much hope that I will not have to use the gun, but if I have to, I'll have to."

Kira Rudik is a member of Ukraine's parliament and leader of the Voice Party.

She wrote on Twitter that she has learnt how to use a fire arm and that she is "not going anywhere".

Finally, former president Petro Poroshenko, Zelenskyy's predecessor, holding an assault rifle, told CNN, that a long line of people were waiting to get enlisted with the army, but were facing a weapons shortage.

"We just have 300 members of the battalion of the territorial defence here and two machine guns. More or less that's it. We don't have artilleries, tanks," Poroshenko said.

Statistics published by the Financial Times corroborate the former president's claims regarding the shortage of weapons like tanks.

Russia has 13,000 tanks in comparison to Ukraine's 2,430. Detailed information regarding the drastic asymmetry in military capabilities of Ukraine and Russia can be found here.

But neither the asymmetry, nor the Russian assault on Ukrainian cities have been able to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people.

When Poroshenko was asked about how long he thinks Ukraine will be able to resist Russia, he thought for a moment, and then gave a one-word answer.


(With inputs from NYT, FT, Vox, Washington Post, and CNN)

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