Lethal Threat or Tolerable Risk? Ukrainians Must Judge Constantly.
KYIV, Ukraine — After a year of war, Ukrainians have learned all too well how to parse danger.
Even as President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Russia might be plotting a “revenge” attack timed to the anniversary on Friday of its invasion, Khrystyna Mironova, 30, sat on a trolley in Kyiv, the capital, listening to music on her way to visit a friend.
Alarms and warnings of imminent violence from Russia, she said, have become a part of everyday life — “like brushing my teeth.” And so when an air raid siren sounds, Ms. Mironova checks the news. If she sees it was triggered by, say, a Russian fighter jet taking off in Belarus, she goes about her business.
Ukrainians know that the risk is real. Near the front lines on Thursday, Russian forces pounded residential areas, killing at least three people and leaving two buried in the rubble of a building, Ukrainian officials said Thursday. In the Kherson region over the past 24 hours, Russian forces launched 71 shells, hitting residential buildings and killing two civilians, the regional military administration said.
In the Kharkiv region in the northeast, a surface-to-air missile hit a government building in Kupiansk and rescuers were digging through the wreckage in the hope of reaching two civilians who had been buried, the head of the regional military administration said. A civilian near the building was injured in that attack and two women were also wounded in a separate strike in Kupiansk, he said.
But in Kyiv’s artsy Podil neighborhood, Maksym Bilinskiy, a 19-year-old postal worker standing with friends at a coffee kiosk, did not appear terribly concerned about the alarms. “I’ve already gone through a rocket damaging my mother’s car near our house in Kyiv and a missile destroying a part of our summer house in Chernihiv,” he said.
Ms. Mironova and others may take sirens and alerts in stride, but explosions are another matter. On New Year’s Eve, a missile blew up a few hundred yards from her home. “To make a long story short,” she said, “it was not cool at all.” Now, blasts send her to the corridor, where she huddles with her parents.
Even Ukrainians who have had more trouble adapting to their country’s new normal seem determined to carry on.
“I am anxious every day,” said Liudmyla Danilenko, 79, who was bundled up against the cold as she waited for a trolley to take her to work.
To Ms. Danilenko, the war has been one ceaseless horror. But her parents had it worse, she said, surviving both the famine of the Stalin era and World War II. She finds relief in yoga and meditation.
“Hope is the last thing to die,” she said.
Virtually no one in Ukraine has been left untouched by the violence, destruction and bloodshed. But many say they had found strength in the country’s shared sacrifice and the collective struggle for survival.
The sense of foreboding and chaos that marked the early days of the war faded long ago. Now it is more a matter of enduring, and taking pleasure in small things like the recent resumption of the trolleys, which had been sidelined by Russian attacks on power plants.
Ukrainians also say they are putting their faith in their soldiers, who have staved off the Russian invasion far better than many expected. Some of the troops, who have sustained heavy losses at the front, sound less sanguine than the civilians.
“It’s a mess,” said one soldier, Gourmand, 46, who was taking part in training exercises on Thursday on the outskirts of Kyiv. “It just goes on and on.” He asked to be identified only by his call sign for security reasons.
This time a year ago, he said, he was working at a factory salting fish. Not long after he went into battle, he saw two fellow soldiers die when their car hit a mine.
Asked when he thought the war might end, Gourmand just laughed. Who could know such a thing? But he had an idea: When that day does come, he said, “invite me to the U.S.A. — I will prepare fish for you.”
Before dawn on Thursday, explosions were reported for the second night in a row in the Russian-occupied southern port city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces have been striking some 50 miles or more behind enemy lines. An adviser to the exiled mayor said that Ukrainian forces had targeted concentrations of Russian forces. He did not offer further details on what was used to hit them.
At the United Nations on Thursday, the General Assembly approved a resolution calling for Russia to withdraw its troops and for a peace deal that recognizes Ukraine’s sovereignty and rejects any territorial gains by Russia — the latest of several resolutions deploring Moscow’s conduct in Ukraine.
And in Vienna, dozens of delegates at a parliamentary session of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe walked out as the Russian representative began speaking.
International condemnation has done nothing to curb the violence, or the warnings of more to come. But Thursday, at least, passed without major incident, and one top Ukrainian official predicted that anniversary or not, that might remain the case.
The head of the country’s military intelligence agency, Kyrylo Budanov, played down the aerial threat in an interview with the Ukraine Pravda news outlet, saying he expected a “moderate missile attack.”
“Believe me, we’ve seen it more than 20 times already,” he said.
Reporting was contributed by Daria Mitiuk, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Anushka Patil.
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