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Kyiv residents calm after heavy night fighting

February 26, 2022 2:44 pmby Igor Kossov
People walk with groceries on Feb. 26, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Explosions and gunfire were reported around Kyiv on the second night of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.(Photo by Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images)

As morning rose over the battered capital city, the streets were emptied out but people were still going about their business.

Sporadic sirens and bangs went off throughout the capital from the morning, into the early afternoon. 

After the night’s fighting, which has injured 35 people, including two children, Kyivans were curt and untalkative yet determined and unafraid. When asked how they felt throughout the night as Russian rockets and troops attacked the city, they mostly responded with a simple “normalno,” which means “I’m fine.”

Such was the case with Varvara, who declined to give her last name. She was standing in line for the one open pharmacy within a several-block area. Varvara and her husband spent their night in a shelter, obeying instructions from the city.

“As soon as (mayor Vitaliii) Klitschko told us to go, we followed the instructions and went,” she said. The couple does not intend to leave Kyiv.

Getting basic goods has become more of a challenge, as many stores have closed and many Kyivans have left the city, turning the roads west into sprawling convoys dozens of kilometers long. Sporadic people could be seen packing their vehicles or moving around with large backpacks, presumably to find somewhere safer or to leave on Feb. 26. 

Truck drivers and residents seeking to leave the capital in a traffic jam in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 24, 2022, the first day of Russia's all-out invasion of Ukraine. (Erin Trieb/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

At a local Silpo supermarket, people were getting what was on the shelves and forming longer lines than usual at the cash registers. The store, like many others, was completely out of bread but contained many other goods. Queues for food and pharmacies were quiet and orderly.

One man, buying a bunch of red bull cans and cigarette packs was speaking on the phone to someone, saying “yeah, I just grabbed my passport, going to head for the Territorial Defense.” After a pause, he replied, “I don’t know, I’ll be fighting everywhere.”

“Everything’s okay, everything’s calm, you need to stop worrying,” he soon added. 

Fighting has spread close to this neighborhood, close to Kyiv’s Peremohy (Victory) Square. Elena Kozlova, a local pensioner, said she heard multiple rounds of automatic fire, likely from assault rifles, as well as single shots very close to her building, from the direction of the intersection of Poltavska and Sichovykh Striltsiv Streets.  

“It seemed like they were shooting right outside our windows,” she said. “Then again, it was night and the city is a lot quieter than usual.”

When asked how she felt, she gave the same confidence, “I’m fine,” before switching the subject to the reported build-up of Russian tanks near the village of Kazarovichi, where her family has a dacha, a sort of summer home with a garden, popular with Ukrainians, on the edge of the Kyiv Reservoir, known locally as the Kyiv Sea. Ukrainian forces blew the approaches to Kyiv and the tanks can’t make headway for now, she said. 

Some locals believe that the shooting in the neighborhood came from what Ukrainians call “diversionary forces” or “saboteurs” – essentially special operations units who are sent ahead to destabilize an area. 

The shooting provoked fury among some. A taxi driver who declined to give his name for safety’s sake went on a profanity-laden tirade against the attackers. 

“These diversionary forces should be shot and left to lie in the street to send a message,” he said. “What the f*ck are they doing here? Don’t they f*cking know that we are an independent nation and don’t want what they’re offering?”

Igor Kossov
Author: Igor Kossov

Igor is a reporter at the Kyiv Independent. He has previously covered conflict in the Middle East, investigated corruption in Ukraine and man-made environmental damage in Southeast Asia. He has a Master’s in Journalism from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and was published in the Kyiv Post, USA Today, The Atlantic, Daily Beast and Foreign Policy.

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