‘Don’t want my family killed’: Ukrainian civilians ready to fight

As Russian troops move further into Ukraine, many civilians in Zaporizhzhia are volunteering to to help Ukrainian armed forces.

By the side of a road in Zaporizhzhia, a city in Ukraine’s east, men of all ages and backgrounds help to build a makeshift barricade.

As Russian troops move further into Ukraine, civilians have been volunteering to help fight alongside Ukrainian soldiers, the pace more urgent since the Ukrainian army said Russian tank columns are less than 40km (25 miles) away.

“We didn’t invade them; they invaded us,” one volunteer told Al Jazeera. “He took Crimea, then he took Donbas, now he’s come to our city,” he said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Tuesday marks the sixth day since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. On Monday, Ukraine’s health ministry said 352 civilians have been killed so far, including 14 children.

According to the United Nations, more than 520,000 people have fled the country since the invasion began on February 24.

Reporting from the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia, Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford said there was a “growing number of checkpoints” springing up around the city. Volunteers have been overlooking those from positions hidden in the trees, as others moved equipment along freshly dug trenches.

“I used to teach maths and physics at my local school, but two days ago the Russian army took control of my town so I signed up to fight,” Sasha, a civil defence volunteer dressed in camouflage told Al Jazeera.

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Restaurants have been donating food. Pharmacies gave the medicine they could spare for the volunteers to treat the wounded.

“We are here to treat emergencies, stopping bleeding for example. We then take them to the hospital,” a volunteer told Al Jazeera.

Armed volunteers are ready to be taken to positions around the city, and more men and women arrive, waiting to sign up to fight.

“I don’t want my family killed. I won’t allow them to march on our land. They are the occupiers and they should be eliminated,” one man said.

“If need be, I will fight; give me a weapon,” a woman said, crying.

A group of locals, young and old, filled glass bottles with petrol to make Molotov cocktails for those who want to fight but do not have a gun.

“I have a family; I can’t do anything else to help them. We are honest and bright people, but the situation is dark right now,” an elderly man told Al Jazeera.

The first round of talks between Kyiv and Moscow ended on Monday evening with no agreement. Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the next meeting is expected in the coming days.

On Monday, a Russian artillery attack in Okhtyrka, a city between Kharkiv and the capital, Kyiv, killed at least 70 Ukrainian soldiers, according to a local official.

Zelenskyy has called for a no-fly zone to stop Russian bombardment, but the White House said the US is not considering such a move.

Source: Al Jazeera