Battalion tactical groups of the Russian Armed Forces have redeployed, leaving the Kiev region. An air-raid alert, thousands of Kievers living in subways, artillery arrivals, queues in front of pharmacies and supermarkets, armed territorial defenses, roadblocks everywhere, and nightly shootouts – that is how capital of Ukraine looks today.
Beginning April 1, the Kiev authorities allowed some relaxations for the first time since the beginning of the military conflict.
For example, it is now possible to buy alcohol from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In the Ukrainian capital, the city commuter train, which runs on a ring around the city, has started to work, and state agencies and private companies have begun to operate.
At the same time, thousands of Kievers sleep at subway stations every night, fearing the arrival of missiles and shells, or even a stray bullet from the territorial defense brigades that occupy the city like mushrooms after the rain.
Online stores complain that turnover has collapsed by several times. For example, as the owner of Rosetka, the largest Ukrainian retailer, said, the turnover in March fell from 4 billion to 23 million hryvnia. Conversely, the goods in high demand are meds and the most basic products now such as bread, potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers, carrots, cereals, and pasta. Therefore, there are long lines in front of the few working pharmacies, as well as in front of grocery stores. The situation with gasoline is very tense, and it is unlikely to get better in the near future. Not all ATMs work, so there is much less cash in circulation.
Fear has big eyes
“Walk only on main streets! Don't go on the paths! Russian saboteurs put mines and tripods there!” said pensioner Natalia P. who lives in the private sector, citing the latest “news” she had read on the Internet. It would seem that how can anyone believe such nonsense? Why would saboteurs expose themselves to the risk of exposure? How does this help with military tasks?
One could argue but what is the point? After February 24, the majority of the inhabitants of Kiev and Ukraine as a whole are in shock. This means that rational thinking is blocked. Hence all kinds of fantastic nonsense they tell on Ukrainian TV and write on the Internet. For example, in saboteurs, who scatter mines disguised as children's toys and place tripwires on the outskirts of the city. And so on. For anyone who has read Paustovsky about Civil War Kiev, it is clear that not much has changed in 100 years.
However, if you talk to a resident of Ukraine, keep in mind that millions of people are in an information environment where the media is hammering into their brains 24/7 that “Ukraine is winning.” They create a kaleidoscope of “victories” in front of their eyes. There is a simple example. In February, Russian troops fired a missile at a military unit in central Kiev. And what do you think? The command of the military unit triumphantly reported that at night the enemy attacked the unit, but the attack was heroically repelled. At the same time, no one explained how the enemy hit squad was able to get almost to the center of Kiev. No one showed the burnt-out equipment, the dead, or the prisoners. Never mind.
They reported and then continued to praise themselves.
Therefore, the average resident of Ukraine, as a rule, with confidence, as if he himself was there, will tell you that “Russia is over” and “the Ukrainian army is chasing the enemy,” “the whole world is with us,” and “the Americans and NATO are giving Ukraine a lot of weapons.”
Armed “amateur art”
“I signed up for territorial defense. I'm standing in line for a machine gun,” says Andrei S., a peacetime expert-evaluator from Kiev, speaking on his cell phone.
Territorial defense is another new feature of military life. From the first days of the Russian military special operation, authorities in Kiev and other cities began enlisting en masse to join the territorial defense and, most importantly, to distribute weapons. In some cities, such as Zaporizhzhia, they went so far as to give automatic weapons from cars to anyone who wanted them, as if they were potatoes.
However, one should not mindlessly believe the media, which describe only the horrors of this decision. In fact, there are many places where the military helps to maintain at least minimal order, while there could be chaos and total looting.
“We are locals. We set up several checkpoints at the crossroads, further along the highway, etc. In all this time, the guys have already caught about 10 looters, who used to rob houses in the private sector. What do they do with the looters? They turn them in to the cops,” said Viktor K., who is a member of the territorial defense detachment in one of Kiev's residential areas.
In the central districts of the Ukrainian capital, there are people at checkpoints who show that they know how to handle weapons. In the private sector, these are locals who have organized themselves to maintain law and order. It must be said that even before the outbreak of the military conflict, the Ukrainian police had to be sought out “scarcely in sight” if anything happened. As of today, there is an impression that law enforcement officials simply scattered. “We don't even go out for non-lethal violations anymore,” a couple of months ago a media outlet quoted one of the police chiefs as saying in the headline.
It is clear that when confronted with a regular army, this mercenary army will not make much headway. But now they carry out an important task - to maintain law and order at a time when the law enforcement agencies are simply not functioning. If at all it can be said that the law enforcement agencies exist.
What can be done in such a situation? That is why local residents unite. Therefore, in many cases, territorial defense does perform socially significant tasks.
Criminal shoot first
At the same time, territorial defense is a chance for fringe urban population groups. Such “defenders” pose a great danger, because first they received machine guns, and tomorrow they decide to establish their own order. Finally, the most dangerous thing is that the territorial defense is an opportunity for the real criminals to legalize themselves.
This is why there are more and more egregious cases of attacks and shootings involving the territorial defense fighters every day.
Already on February 25, Kiev was shaken by a tragic incident when a group of unknown persons on Kirillovskaya Street in the central district shot up a jeep in which a married couple and their child were traveling. All passengers of the car were killed. A video of the murderers laughing in front of the shot jeep was spread all over Telegram-channels, social networks and media. However, it is not known for certain who the killers really were – the territorial defense or ordinary thugs who got their hands on small arms.
Given the complete disorder that engulfed the authorities in Kiev even before the Russian military special operation, it is unlikely that those responsible for the shooting of an entire family will ever be found.
The shooting of an Israeli citizen at a checkpoint in Bila Tserkva on February 28 was 100% perpetrated by the territorial defense. According to the media, the Israeli Roman Brodsky was riding in a car that was heading to the border with Moldova in a convoy. According to a widespread version, the soldiers of the territorial defense of Bila Tserkva mistook the Israeli ... for a Chechen, so one of them shot him in the head. The scandal would have been hushed up by the “war will make up for everything” principle, but the information reached the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Judging by the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed his condolences to the family of the deceased the Israelis called the Ukrainian authorities to account, as they had to find out details of the incident and justify themselves.
On March 29, another blatant incident was reported when the soldiers of territorial defense at a checkpoint near Vyshgorod (a northern suburb of Kiev) shot at an ambulance that was on its way. The ambulance crew, two medics and the driver, died on the spot.
“Not a single shot was fired at the wheels. They shot at the windows... They did not even let them near the checkpoint to ask for passwords or to identify themselves. The medical crew was killed,” many media outlets replicated an angry post by a Kievan woman with details of what happened.
“They drove fast, they thought it was hit squad. That moment when you take the wounded out of the ass... of the world, under the fire of professional military enemies, and you get killed by a collective farmer at a roadblock,” said a resident of Kiev indignantly.
At the end of March, radical Sergei Bondar of the Basis for Future organization, which foreign agent Hromadske TV called a neo-Nazi organization, exploded with indignation. Bondar, who serves in the Municipal Varta unit (Kiev mayor Vitaliy Klitschko's personal armed units), accused the area defens of attacks and shootings with AFU soldiers and other terrorists.
“Hit squad in Vasylkiv, 14 corpses” – friendly forces. “All night long fight at "Berestiyskaya” – friendly forces. The hit squade seized one of Kyiv's district administrations. There was a fight between the military and the special forces, machine guns and grenade launchers, corpses and wounded on both sides,” Bondar said, giving examples.
“We killed one of the chiefs of the SBU on your stupid tip. The 72nd separate mechanized brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (wek.ru's ed.note) was slaughtered a lot of people. Several groups of Special Forces regiments did not lie down from the enemies, but were shot at by terrified “terrorists.” Three ambulances were shot up, luckily the medics survived. Not everyone was so lucky...,” said Bondar, listing the “creative successes” of territorial defense in Kiev.
The farther away from Kiev, the more places where there is complete lawlessness, because “only the bear is a prosecutor.”
We are leaving Kiev. Broken glass and concrete crumbs crunch under the wheels. We can see a queue at one of the few open pharmacies. A checkpoint on the way out of the city. Sack berms alternate with concrete blocks. There are two shot and burnt-out cars just behind the roadblock. Who was riding in them? What happened to them? Why were the two civilian cars that were leaving the capital of Ukraine shot for? Obviously, in these troubled times, no one will even look into it…