Kiev calls on the Ukrainians to take up arms

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A group of civilians are trained in the use of assault weapons, during a training day in Kiev. / EFE/Video: EP

In an intense day, the Government declares a state of emergency, mobilizes reservists and empowers civilians to dispose of weapons

Kiev passed this Wednesday from words to deeds. After dedicating itself on Tuesday to obtaining international support in the face of Russian “aggression” and multiplying contacts with allied countries -and with the Kremlin itself in search of an impossible meeting that would facilitate diplomatic negotiation-, the Government of Volodímir Zelenski took this Wednesday three decisions of enormous pre-war significance: declared a state of emergency – an instrument by which it restricts movements near the border and increases control over foreigners, the use of drones or the taking of photographs of elements and security installations -, mobilized thousands of reservists between the ages of 16 and 60 to increase the “operational capacity” of the Army and obtained from its deputies the approval in record time of a bill aimed at “liberalizing the circulation” of weapons among civilians.

Ukraine commands full Western backing, but is an orphan. In these months of conflict, it has not achieved the slightest guarantee that the way will be paved for its requests to escape Russian harassment: accession to the European Union or NATO. Only Poland and Lithuania stated this Wednesday that she “deserves” to be a candidate for the EU, without other repercussions. Zelensky recalled this loneliness and declared that “if you remain silent now, it will disappear tomorrow.” And, for this reason, he has taken charge of his self-defense.

Ukraine lives a permanent vigil with attention focused on the Donbass border, where Russia has gathered some 150,000 soldiers and sent armored groups to the same divide, according to some witnesses. Among them would be tanks equipped with very sophisticated technology, missile launchers and mortars, which until last night at least were parked about thirty kilometers from the line, awaiting orders from the Kremlin.

On paper, all these troops would be part of the contingent “on a peace mission” that the Russian president promised on Monday to send to Donetsk and Lugansk if necessary after granting them the status of independent states within Ukrainian territory. Moscow has reiterated that it limits its eventual incursion to these pro-Russian provinces, but fear beats with such force in Kiev, where the national anthem is played every hour in Maidan Square, that this Wednesday nerves rose when the Administration, Parliament and banks suffered a cyberattack that destroyed their websites. Authorities have long been convinced that Russia will start the war with an act of prior hacking of the country’s operational networks.

economic patriotism

The application of the national state of emergency will have no effect in the two separatist enclaves. Greater attention deserves the bill provisionally approved by Parliament to authorize the possession of weapons among civilians, a measure that indirectly represents a call to the Ukrainian population to arm themselves in the event of a war. The draft had this Wednesday the vote of 274 of the 352 deputies and must be ratified in the next few days or hours. While “liberalizing the circulation of weapons”, the decree “increases the responsibility” of citizens in the event of an “illegal use” of weapons, since their purpose is “self-defense”.

SURGE OF REFUGEES:

Exit from Russia. Zelensky on Wednesday urged the three million Ukrainians residing in Russia to leave this country. He also asked his compatriots to stay away from Donbass.

Europe. He sees a massive exodus of citizens to the surrounding countries as very possible. The US estimates that 1.5 million people will leave Ukraine.

Poland and Hungary. They have confirmed that they will receive the migrants. In the Polish case, its prime minister said on Wednesday that the country is ready to welcome a million. Slovakia has pledged to relieve “refugee pressure” and Romania declares itself ready to receive 500,000 Ukrainians.

The marathon journey in search of an internal military strengthening responds to what the Ukrainian president considered vital “to maintain economic stability and the defense capabilities of the State. Drive, speed and big decisions.” Zelensky called on “all politicians and all parties” to create a great parliamentary coalition under “the same color” and announced a program of “economic patriotism” focused on supporting companies, strengthening the energy sector and preventing asset flight . “They must stay in Ukraine”, he sentenced before meeting with the fifty main industries of the country. “A patriot is the one who fights the enemy for his land and the one who invests money and creates jobs.”

“Declarations do not protect from bullets,” warns the Ukrainian Embassy in Spain

The Embassy of Ukraine in Spain asked the Government of Pedro Sánchez on Wednesday to send material with which the troops of his country can respond more effectively to a possible invasion by Russia. The charge d’affaires, Dmytro Matiuschenko, stressed in an interview with Europa Press that “it is time to act” and move from words to “practical help”, since “statements do not protect against bullets”. His message is identical to the one that the Ukrainian authorities have sent in recent weeks to other countries such as Germany or Sweden, whose legal system does not contemplate providing arsenals to regions in conflict, although the Swedes, and also Finland, are studying changing this rule to indirectly reinforce his own defense against Russia.

Sánchez personally transferred Spanish support to the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, in December and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, traveled to Ukraine this month with a similar message. Matiuschenko appreciates, in this sense, the “firm position” of the Spanish Government, but believes that “we have reached the moment when declarations are not enough” and that the Executive could do more to strengthen Ukraine’s defensive capabilities and advance in other items “that could save people’s lives,” such as bulletproof vests and helmets. In addition, he maintains that there is room to continue progressing in other aid “of a more humanitarian nature” and in formulas that guarantee the “macro-financial stability” of Ukraine.

The diplomat appreciates the sanctions established by the EU, but believes that the allied countries have not taken into account since the beginning of the conflict in 2014 that “the more prepared Ukraine is economically and militarily, the less temptation Russia will have to attack”.

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