Ukraine's war weary locals find bomb shelters as they prepare to defend homeland

Ukrainians in the capital Kyiv told The Mirror they are worried about a war with Russia, although others believe a clash is unlikely, despite more than 120,000 troops massing on the border

Ukrainian civilians are being trained to use firearms ahead of a possible Russian invasion (

Image: Future Publishing via Getty Images)

After eight years of being told Russia will invade, the citizens of Ukraine seem in denial about the danger.

Invasion alarms are so common that they joke about appointments: “I will go to the doctor after the invasion.”

Some are finding bomb shelters, some are joining civil defense groups but many say they are relaxed.

Kyiv resident Alex, 31, who runs his own bar in the city, is originally from war-battered Donetsk, where most of his family still live.

Even though he has experienced the horrors of war he shrugs and says: “I don’t think they are coming but if they do I will join the civil defense groups and register.

“And then I guess it will be time to get a gun and go out and shoot some Russians.

Alex, who runs a bar in Kyiv, has vowed to resist the Russians if they invade
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Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)

Anna is nervous about the prospect of war
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Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)

“If war does come it won’t last for very long, that’s for sure, maybe it will last one week maximum as although Putin is crazy he is not stupid.

“He cannot afford a full-scale war and it will be costly for the Russians.

“This is just my opinion and I believe we will know the answer in the next 48 hours.”

The war that has raged since 2014 is 500 miles to the east in Donbas region and most Kyiv civilians have not witnessed any of the violence.

But nervousness is beginning to creep in among citizens out for a walk in the sunshine yesterday, or taking a break from work.

In Kyiv central, close to the city Sofia Square, two ladies called Anna were walking together, the oldest pushing her four month-old baby boy Denys.

Volunteers of the 112th Territorial Defense Brigade of Kyiv
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Celestino Arce Lavin / Avalon)

Anna, 40, who works for an anti-drug non-government organisation, said: “I am not sure what will come here but yes, of course we are nervous.

“We have children so we are concerned for their safety and their futures.

“The problem is that it is so hard to imagine it happening.

“Nobody wants to think about it in Kyiv, but finally some are making plans.”

Her friend, also called Anna, 33, has two children aged eight and four years-old, and she works as an adviser to one of Ukraine’s defense ministers.

She says: “The situation is under control in my view but I don’t know what is going to happen.

Valerie is also worried about war but said Russians are friends of her country
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Larisa described Vladimir Putin as a ‘crazy man’
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Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)

“And of course I am too worried for my children.”

Some people apply the bizarre logic that if other people don’t believe war is coming then surely that must be true.

Another lady, called Olena, who works in real estate in Kyiv and refused to be photographed, said: “I do not think war will come to Kyiv, not at all.

“My job is to sell apartments and people are still coming to me for them.

“There is still so much interest in apartments in Kyiv – why would anyone be buying them if was was coming here.”

A middle-aged man called Ihor stops to shake our hands and tells us:”My daughter lives in the USA.”

Asked if Russia is going to invade he answers simply: “No idea what you are talking about – I don’t think about these things.

Members of the 35th Separate Naval Infantry Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces training in Odessa
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“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Waitress Valerie, 19, has traveled throughout Europe and says: “I don’t really like to talk about politics too much but I really like Europe.

“But you have to remember that Russians are our friends and it is sad that this is happening.

“Of course I hope there not be a war and I am worried about it.

“If such a thing happens I believe it will be very bad.”

Nearby cafe boss Anastasia, 25, reveals a stunning lack of interest in the possibility of war.

She smiles, saying: “It’s not actually something I think about as I don’t get involved in politics or such stories.

“I don’t understand these things as I am just getting on with my life.”

Ukrainians are preparing to resist a possible Russian invasion
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Vladyslav Musiienko/UPI/REX/Shutterstock)

Georgian restaurant worker Larisa, 60, who is dressed in traditional Georgian clothing, says:

“I think NATO is good for Ukraine because the UK and America have helped us a lot with support against Russia.

“But it has been such a long time since we have been threatened by Russia.

“I think they will not come because we are supported by NATO and these other countries are our friends.

“Putin is a crazy man and I think he just wants to put psychological pressure on Ukraine.

“That is why Ukraine wants to be part of NATO, to be under its umbrella.

“And I want this to happen.”

Russia could invade Ukraine ‘almost immediately, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned
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Future Publishing via Getty Images)

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Ex-soldier and now an engineer Viktor, 59, has three children and five grandchildren.

As he feeds local pigeons with birdseed he says: “This is my point of view but somebody is telling the media a lot and it appears to be true.

“I believe a lot of people are under-estimating the truth of what has been said.

“Also nobody has been punished for what happened in 2014 in Maidan or what happened in Donbas.”

Asked if he feels European or more Russian he said: “I am Ukrainian. I did a lot more than plant one tree.

“I have many grandchildren.”

Restaurant worker Gregory, 25, sums up Kyiv’s passive attitude towards the Russian threat.

He says: “I don’t see this happening at all but to be truthful I have sourced a bomb shelter.

“If war happens I will jump straight into that.”

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