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Ordinary Ukrainian citizens are taking up arms to fend off Russian forces as they close in on Kyiv

Business Insider logo Business Insider 2/25/2022 ssheth@businessinsider.com (Sonam Sheth)
Residents attend an open training organised for civilians by war veterans and volunteers who teach the basic weapons handling and first aid on one of Kyiv's city beaches Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images © Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images Residents attend an open training organised for civilians by war veterans and volunteers who teach the basic weapons handling and first aid on one of Kyiv's city beaches Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images
  • Ordinary Ukrainian citizens are taking up arms all over Kyiv to defend the capital city.
  • Ukraine's government is distributing firearms to anyone who wants to fight and teaching people how to make Molotov cocktails.
  • Kyiv came under heavy attack early Friday morning, local time, as Russian forces entered the city.

Ordinary citizens all over Kyiv are taking up arms in the fight against Russian forces as they close in on the capital city following two days of heavy attacks and hundreds of casualties.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" in Ukraine early Thursday morning, local time. Minutes later, Russian troops began pushing their way into Ukraine via its northern, eastern, and southern borders.

As Russian forces started making their way toward Kyiv, the Ukrainian government called on all citizens and "patriots" to take up arms in defense of the country, saying that only an ID was required and adding, "We give weapons to all patriots!"

"We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a tweet. "Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities."

And they were.

According to The Kyiv Independent reporter Illia Ponomarenko, as of Friday afternoon local time, 18,000 rifles had been given to civilian defense forces on the streets of Kyiv.

BuzzFeed News reported that some fighters were dressed in camouflage while others wore neon puffer coats. They carried weapons including AK-47s, AR-15s, and shotguns. According to BuzzFeed, they were seen standing "on nearly every other street corner, beside local government buildings and cultural institutions, and on overpasses around the capital."

One video posted to social media appeared to show firearms being delivered to anyone who wanted to fight.

Ukrainian government agencies also urged citizens to make Molotov cocktails, and the National Guard of Ukraine tweeted out instructions on how to make the weapon.


Video: Ukraine in fierce fight against advancing Russian forces (Associated Press)

Among those taking up arms were Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko, a former boxing champion who said he was forming "territorial defense brigades" for volunteers with a military background.

"If necessary, we are ready to defend our city," Klitschko said. His brother, Wladimir, is also a former heavyweight champion and is fighting alongside Klitschko.

Ukraine's former president, Petro Poroshenko, also said he's preparing to mount a defense against Russia's invasion of the seat of democratic power in Kyiv.

Poroshenko told CNN that he's part of a "territorial defense" battalion. He was seen holding a Kalashnikov rifle while speaking with CNN's John Berman but said his unit doesn't have tanks, artillery, or an armed personnel carrier yet because "we just launched this process a couple of days ago."

But in many ways, the Ukrainian public has been bracing for this very moment for weeks.

Residents attend an open training organised for civilians by war veterans and volunteers who teach the basic weapons handling and first aid on one of Kiyv's city beaches on February 20, 2022. Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images © Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images Residents attend an open training organised for civilians by war veterans and volunteers who teach the basic weapons handling and first aid on one of Kiyv's city beaches on February 20, 2022. Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

As Insider's Julie Coleman wrote, Ukrainians from all walks of life have been practicing combat drills with current and former military members on the outskirts of Kyiv and other cities in preparation for Russia's invasion.

"We will never surrender," one Ukrainian architect told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month. "We are using every opportunity to train. So I think Putin should be afraid of us."

Ukraine's interior ministry said Friday that the civilian fighters made a dent in Russia's onslaught and managed to stop Russian troops from advancing on Kyiv from the northwest.

Zelensky gave an impassioned speech early Friday morning, local time, as Russian troops moved in on Kyiv, praising the bravery of Ukrainian soldiers and civilian fighters and condemning "the world's most powerful forces" for "watching from afar."

"Stop the enemy wherever you see it," he said. "The fate of Ukraine depends only on Ukrainians. No one but ourselves will control our lives. We are on our land. The truth is on our side. It will not be possible to destroy our character."

Jake Epstein contributed reporting.

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