Civilians in jeans and sneakers learned to crouch and walk in unison while looking down the barrels of fake guns in preparation for a fight they’re joining of their own volition.
Many have no military background. Some have never held a gun.
“We were invaded by Russia and who will do it if not us?” a Ukrainian citizen named Alexi told NewsNation.
Before Russia’s invasion, Alexi worked as an actor. Now, he feels it’s his responsibility to stay behind and fight.
“At first I was scared but every day I’m getting closer to learning that every person should protect his or her motherland.”
Ukraine’s army is outmanned by Russia’s, but it’s also better trained and equipped than in 2014, when Russia captured the Crimea peninsula.
At the time of its invasion in late February, Russia’s army had about 280,000 personnel. Its combined armed forces total about 900,000, while its 2,840 battle tanks outnumbered Ukraine’s by more than three to one, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Beyond the regular army, Ukraine has volunteer territorial defense units and around 900,000 reservists. Most adult males have at least basic military training, meaning Russia could find itself facing stubborn and protracted resistance.
More than 1.3 million people have fled Ukraine, according to the U.N. But some Ukrainian men and women have returned home from across Europe to help defend their homeland.
Poland’s Border Guard said that some 22,000 people crossed into Ukraine in the first few days since Russia’s invasion.
One local Ukrainian woman named Athena told NewsNation that she’s unable to fight. She has, however, taken it upon herself to train civilians who can.
“There is no time for panicking but, rather, we should stand hand-in-hand. And only united we will win,” Athena said. “I feel no fear, rather confidence.”
As Ukrainians’ determination builds, Russian troops appear increasingly demoralized, Ukraine Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov said in an official statement Sunday.
Earlier this month, Russia’s military move on Kyiv stalled as its forces struggled with basic logistics challenges, including shortages of food and fuel.
“We continue to fight against the enemy. Russian invaders couldn’t destroy us. They couldn’t break us. And they will not do this!” Ukraine Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov said in an official statement Sunday. “The AFU, TDF forces, every volunteer fighter, every Ukrainian citizen continues to defend our country, our lives.”
Reuters contributed to this story.