By Ignacio Ortega
Kyiv, Feb 26 (EFE).- Kyiv, a bustling European capital of 4 million people, has been turned into a ghost town. Amid air raid sirens and a curfew, the city’s residents are either fleeing or sheltering from the shelling as Russian forces close in.
The eerie silence is only broken by sirens, church bells and the sporadic bombings and gunshots that can be heard across the city that hasn’t seen a foreign army since Nazi troops invaded more than 80 years ago.
Those who remain only go outside for food. Only a couple of stores have stayed open in the city center. Even the fast food restaurants stopped serving two days ago.
In the few shops that are open queues are already forming, as people prepare for a siege. The shelves of some downtown supermarkets have been empty for days.
There is no time to waste, as the city council has extended the curfew. It is now forbidden to go out on the streets after five o’clock in the afternoon.
The streets are almost completely deserted, save for a few members of the self-defense forces on patrol.
“This is crazy. The Russians are coming,” one of them says in front of the St. Sophia Cathedral.
Members of the special forces protect the city’s main buildings with tanks, from the Presidency to the Government, City Hall and the Parliament.
It is strictly forbidden to take pictures. A reporter who took aim at an official building was approached by two angry soldiers who told him to immediately erase the image.
“Don’t provoke! Don’t help the enemy!” they shouted.
Suddenly, in the middle of the street, in front of the memorial dedicated to the fallen soldiers in the Donbas war, Sviatoslav Yurash, Ukraine’s youngest deputy, appears, a Kalashnikov rifle proudly slung over his shoulder.
“The Russians are trying to enter the city and are sending different subversive groups. Kyiv is a city of millions of people. So I tell the press: they won’t get through!” the 26-year-old pro-government MP, who took part in the 2014 Maidan revolution, tells Efe.
CIVILIANS TO ARMS
John is a former US Marine who jumped on a plane from his native Memphis to travel to Kyiv and do what he can to help Ukraine in its hour of need.
“The Ukrainian military has given me the go-ahead. They’re going to give me a rifle to go to the front. Right now I’m going to the hotel to pick up my backpack,” he says in the middle of Independence Square.
He displays a photo on his phone showing him in the Marine dress uniform.
Kolia, a cab driver, is also willing to take up arms, although he complains that the authorities do not want to distribute them among the population.
“I would go right now to the front line. I think our government wants to hand the country over,” she says, criticizing the West for abandoning Ukraine.
Masha works in a downtown hotel. She says she has never had anything against the Russians, but she will “never forgive” them for this invasion.