Ukraine trains civilians to defend against potential Russian invasion?

Ukraine has prepared new moves due to growing tensions and reports of the accumulation of Russian troops in the border area.

Source: B92

A fake battle has been going on for days in a pine forest not far from the capital of Ukraine.

According to the New York Times, thousands of Ukrainian civilians have applied to learn martial arts in training programs created and run by the government and private paramilitary groups.

The programs are part of the country's strategic defense plan in the event of a potential Russian invasion. Although there are no indications so far that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided whether to launch an attack, the Ukrainians leave nothing to chance: "We have a strong army, but not strong enough to defend against Russia," said Marta Yuzkiv, a doctor who applied for training this month.

Marta Yuzkiv, a 51-year-old doctor, believes that the Russian army is "far superior" to Ukraine's and the risk of a full-scale invasion is "high enough" to have joined the reserves.

"Only if everyone is ready to defend our land, then there will be a chance," she said.

"If we are occupied, and I hope that will not happen, we will become a national resistance," she said.

Let us remind you, civil defense is not unknown in Ukraine - volunteer brigades were the backbone of the country's forces in the east in 2014, when the Ukrainian army was in disarray. This effort is now being formalized into units of the newly formed Territorial Defense Forces that are part of the military.

Last year, the Ukrainian army started weekend training for civilian volunteers in these units. During an ordinary weekend, Anastasia Biloshitska reads a book, does laundry or meets a friend in a cafe. Now, on Saturdays and Sundays, she has a new occupation, and that is learning about first aid and bandaging soldiers.

Panting, sweaty and surrounded by old bandages and medical gloves, she managed to complete the training. As she pointed out, the new obligations are not difficult for her, but she sees them as an opportunity to learn something, foreign media report.

The government conducts and pays for some of the training through the Territorial Defense forces, and private paramilitary groups such as the Ukrainian Legion conduct other sessions, for which their members pay all costs.

This month, the Legion conducted a program in the woods outside Kiev. The goal is not to achieve victory against the Russian army, which would be practically impossible for Ukraine anyway, but to form resistance to the occupying force. General Anatoliy Barkhilevich, Deputy Commander of the Ukrainian ground forces, said the country aims to send about 100.000 volunteers in the event of a conflict.

He adds that half a million Ukrainians have military experience. Critics point to dangers in the civil defense plan, and one of the concerns is that domestic political divisions could provoke violence by armed militias. Some scenarios predict that Moscow could exploit this vulnerability, turning nationalist militias into a destabilizing threat to the government.

Others are concerned that the effort encourages private ownership of weapons, which carries risks of crime, suicide and domestic violence. Ukrainian law requires a psychological examination to obtain a gun license. In a country of about 40 million people, 1.3 million Ukrainians own licensed civilian firearms.


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