Ukrainians prepare for war with Russia as military aid arrives

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna said the country was more organized today than in 2014, when Russia last invaded the country.

A climber installs the Ukrainian national flag on a roof, marking the Day of the State Flag, on the eve of the Independence Day, in Kiev, Ukraine, August 23, 2016 (photo credit: GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS)
A climber installs the Ukrainian national flag on a roof, marking the Day of the State Flag, on the eve of the Independence Day, in Kiev, Ukraine, August 23, 2016
(photo credit: GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS)

KYIV – Ukraine was preparing for war on Tuesday as the US sent a plane carrying military equipment and munitions to the capital, Kyiv. The third shipment of a $200 million security package is intended to help Ukraine amid the looming threat of a Russian military incursion.

“Our partners are increasing the amount of military assistance, and today we are meeting the third aircraft from the United States government as part of this assistance,” Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told reporters before the plane landed.

People in Kyiv said they were nervous about a possible war but were not panicking.

Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna said the country was more organized today than in 2014, the last time Russia invaded it.

“We didn’t have the army then as it is now,” she said. “We didn’t know what Russian aggression looked like. We were thinking that a full-fledged war would take place in our territory, so we were preparing for the massive protection of our territorial integrity without the resources for it.”

Tanks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces drive during military drills at a training ground near the border with Russian-annexed Crimea in Kherson region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine press service November 17, 2021. (credit: PRESS SERVICE OF GENERAL STAFF OF THE ARMED FORCES OF UKRAINE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)Tanks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces drive during military drills at a training ground near the border with Russian-annexed Crimea in Kherson region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine press service November 17, 2021. (credit: PRESS SERVICE OF GENERAL STAFF OF THE ARMED FORCES OF UKRAINE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

After eight years of Ukraine fighting “Russian aggression,” the country had “military resilience as well as a resilience to hybrid threats,” Stefanishyna said.

Ukraine would be ready for all scenarios, she said, adding that the two main scenarios were a military invasion or a continued escalation without an invasion, which would be damaging to the Ukrainian economy, she said.

Ukraine would need “a package of economic assistance” to be part of the talks that took place between US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders on Tuesday, Stefanishyna said.

In addition to the US plane, the UK last week supplied 2,000 short-range, anti-tank missiles and sent British specialists to provide training. It has also provided Saxon armored personnel carriers. Estonia is sending Javelin anti-armor missiles, and Latvia and Lithuania are providing Stinger missiles.

Turkey has sold Ukraine several batches of Bayraktar TB2 drones that it deployed against Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donbass region, infuriating Moscow. The Czech Republic last week said it planned to donate a shipment of 152-mm. artillery ammunition.

The improvements to Ukraine’s defenses have given regular citizens a sense of security and confidence.

“When I heard news of the US withdrawing its diplomats from Ukraine, I was a little nervous,” said Roma, who expressed slight nervousness only because his father serves in the Ukrainian Army. “But I believe it will be fine.”

“I think the conflict is a provocation for Ukraine and a political show to make the Ukrainians panic,” he said. “That’s why I don’t read the news. When you just live your life, you’re normal. But when you see [in the news] that there will be a war tomorrow, and you need to stock up, it’s all you think about.”

Lena said she was under stress because her boyfriend and some of her friends live in Russia, meaning they have not been able to see each other recently.

“If we want to see each other, we need to fly to Turkey or Cyprus,” she said.

Lena said she was not concerned about a war breaking out.

“I feel good, and my friends feel good,” she said. “I have a friend who works in a military department, and he tells me that everything is okay.”

Dimitri said he was not sure if there would be a war because it would be expensive for both Ukraine and Russia. He still thinks there is a possibility because “there is one crazy man who is a dictator in Russia, and who knows this crazy man? Maybe he only wants war.”

Dimitri said he was certain that if there is a war, he will be fighting for his country.

“I think like Israelis,” he said. “If there is war, I’ll fight, and if there is no war, then I will move on.”

The Ukrainian government said the Israeli perspective could be of use because of the way it deals with conflicts.

“We have made sure we have good cooperation with the Israeli government in terms of their experience and best practices when it comes to the hybrid attacks and military development of the military service,” Stefanishyna said. “The dynamics are very positive.”

 A sign roughly translating to ''I love Ukraine'' can be seen in Kyiv, on January 24, 2022. (credit: ARIELLA MARSDEN) A sign roughly translating to ''I love Ukraine'' can be seen in Kyiv, on January 24, 2022. (credit: ARIELLA MARSDEN)

Dimitri’s patriotism reflects a level seen now among Ukrainians that was not as prevalent during the 2014 Russo-Ukrainian war.

“We are definitely more patriotic now,” Sergei said.

“I believe in Ukrainians,” Roma said. “I believe in our army and that our politicians can stabilize the situation.”

Mia said she felt strongly about her Ukrainian nationality and would not be okay with Ukraine becoming a part of Russia. She said she argues every week with her grandfather, who lives in Russia.

“He always tells me that Russia would be best for the Ukrainian people,” she added.

The best assistance Ukraine’s allies could give would be “political pressure [on Russia] and military support,” Stefanishyna said.

Reuters contributed to the report.