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Kyiv Resists Russian Invasion: Conversation with a Journalist on the Front Line

Kyiv Resists Russian Invasion: Conversation with a Journalist on the Front Line

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Amid the heavy fighting in northern Kyiv, the shelling, and the sound of firefights, a group of Russian Spetsnaz advance under the cover of night to avoid detection. This is useless as a member of the Ukrainian Territorial Force spots them and a shooting breaks out.

Under a dark sky painted orange by the explosions caused by the landings of Russian ballistic missiles, Andriy Dubchak moves to the place of the shooting through a deserted road, desolated by the impacts of shells and covered by the odor of burning fuel and melted rubber from the tires of the cars caught in the middle of the shelling.

Dubchak is a war journalist who, since 2015, after the start of the conflict in Donbas, founded the media outlet Donbas Frontliner, where he dedicated himself to directly covering the Russian Federation’s hybrid war against Ukraine.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Dubchak moved to Kyiv to cover the fighting in the capital. At El American, we contacted Andriy to learn more about the protagonists in the frontlines at the heart of Ukraine.

Andriy Dubchak (center) is founder and reporter for Donbass Frontliner, an independent media outlet covering the Russian Federation’s asymmetric conflict with Ukraine. (IG: andriy.dubchak)

Last night heavy fighting was heard north of Kiev, can you tell us what the status of the situation?

For now, Ukraine controls a lot of regions of Kyiv, I don’t know how many streets. I don’t have exact information about how many regions, but the central part is fully controlled and a lot of Ukrainians have gone to the Territorial Defense, like civilians who have taken up arms. Today, hundreds of civilian people have joined the Territorial Defense and have taken guns in their hands.

A long time ago, Ukraine made a law about the territorial defense, people legally can join Territorial Defense, the territorial defenses are formally part of the armed forces of Ukraine, and we saw women, lots of women and men, who think is much better to serve and taking up arms.

During the whole day we heard a lot of sound of sirens and the sound of fights (gunfire). Also, I was at a place not far from Percherska subway station and there were cars in flames and a heavy fight (gunfire) at night between Ukrainians and Russians. There were a lot of nonexplosives shells, you know a lot of shells at the Ukrainian side, a lot of blood, and a lot of some parts of shells and so on and so on.

The Ukrainians defended their position. They captured a few Russians and killed some of them, but I didn’t see the bodies because we arrived at 4 o’clock in the morning, and it was too late because the fight took place in the night. 

Today, I’ve filmed this high building in Kyiv, around the Lobanovskogo avenue. It was (hit by) like a Russian missile, there was an explosion, and I don’t know about those people who were there at that time, because the officials don’t have any information about that. They have some information about three people seriously injured and approximately 150 people dead.

Reports have been heard of Russian troops entering Kiev dressed as civilians or in Ukrainian army uniforms, carrying out sabotage activities within the city itself. How true are these reports?

Yes, yes, yes, it’s too complicated. I heard a lot of rumors about it. I saw a video of a road half and hour (from Kyiv) and it showed a Ukrainian police car, and another car completely burned, having some signs of a heavy fight between cars.

A lot of videos and a lot of noises about some special troops, which are the Russian ones, even fighting near the Percherska subway station, they caught Ukrainian cars probably from Zhytomyr region and went to the city in the Ukrainian cars you know, and it was like big Russian troops. I don’t know how Ukrainian forces are recognizing them, but it was a massive fight, a lot of bullets, a lot of shells, and even grenades, and a lot of explosive tank shells you know.

Probably Russian tanks are fighting from other directions to help Russian forces here, and, you know, Ukrainians destroyed one tank in a certain direction, but I didn’t see that so for that reason that is just a rumor, because if I don’t see it, I can’t confirm it. 

How are civilians protecting themselves from shelling?

Some buildings in Kyiv have deep undergrounds, and they have some protection themselves, and in Kyiv, of course ,there are some protection alarms in case of airstrikes and in case of heavy missiles which are thrown into Ukraine. We have that sound alarm and you can see it on my Instagram stories, and a few times today we heard that alarm, and we go to the subway, and that’s all.

Zelensky claims to have distributed 10,000 rifles among the population of Kyiv. Who are the people who received this weaponry?

 A lot of men and women who are in the territorial defense…[call cuts off]

…we recover contact with Andriy

A lot of men and women who are in the territorial defense are just common people, who have a normal life, for example, you can see on my Facebook some videos of Julia, who is just a teacher, and another woman who was some kind of psychologist. Those are common people who have taken up arms, and it is very sad, you know. They just want to protect… they want to protect their own country and that’s all, they don’t want to live under Putin [curses him], because they don’t want to live in a prison like country,

Ukraine is a democracy, for now maybe the most abused in the world, because we hate all of our presidents [laughs]. We can say freely what we think, what we watch, very young but pretty interesting, since it is a modern democracy.

Putin has said that he will negotiate with Ukraine if it lays down its arms. Are the Ukrainians willing to seek peace with Russia under these circumstances?

Peace with Russia? No, no, Juan. Honestly, for these two days I am in Kyiv in the frontlines, I have talked to a lot of people and I heard no one saying “we need to make peace with Russia.”

Old people say “you know, Russia is bad,” or “we need to fight Russia,” that’s all. Old people who are in Kyiv now say that we need to fight, some babushka said like: “for now it’s war, we need to fight until the end of the war, and after that we need to leave.” 

I am not a military expert, but you understand that the Ukrainian army has a lot of MANPADS (man-portable air-defense system), viable weapons which could be used in Kyiv street battles and from the Dnieper easily. How many Javelins does the Ukrainian army have? Who knows? And honestly, today a lot of troops are going to Kyiv, and I think this could be a second Stalingrad for Russia. They can napalm Kyiv, but they can’t win easily because people are really angry, and they want to protect their homes.

This is not new because a lot of people were in the frontline trenches. A lot of people have fought in Donetsk and Luhansk, they have experience, they have heard the bullets, and they understand all of that. They are strong, and they want to fight.

If Zelensky tomorrow says “we have capitulated,” it will be the last day of Zelensky in the presidency of Ukraine. No, that’s information that I hear from people, it’s my personal opinion too, but in reality is the opinion that I hear from different people.

 I see explosions in the sky, lights and explosions in the sky. but they are  very far… [Keeps quiet]

We continue the interview… You have covered the fighting in Donbass ¿How favorable are Russia and Ukraine in the eyes of local people living in the Ukrainian side?

Last year, 20% of the population supported Ukraine and 20% supported Russia and in the middle people didn’t care. They just want to eat, sleep, shit and so on. But in my opinion, I see that 20% of people who support Ukraine easily can take up arms in hand, and the 20% of people who support Russia will never be able to do that, they are just “papapa” and dreaming about it.

Andriy stops talking…

There was a huge explosion, but it’s far because the sound came maybe 20 seconds later. The distance was huge, and the sky was very light because they were full explosions. 

Second explosion, 1, 2, 3, 4…[keeps counting until 31]  31 seconds from the light of the explosion and the sound, it was a very heavy light in the sky.

We lost contact with Andriy once again for a few minutes

Tomorrow Kyiv might have cut off internet, energy or running water.

What do you mean?

I think that Kyiv is going to be surrounded by Russian troops, probably, who knows. Honestly for now, Russia expects a very fast operation in Ukraine. I chatted with a correspondent who covers the war and according to some rumors Putin just removed a commander of the general staff because the operation for now doesn’t look so successful.

Ukrainian soldiers await the Russian attack outside Kyiv. (EFE)

Do you think Kyiv might fall?

Not in one day, not in one week, it will be very hard for Russia. They’ll lose lots of people, thousands tens of thousands, who knows?

Are you sure?

It could be, yes of course, It could happen since I am not a military expert and I don’t have that information, but who knows.

What can we do from the West to help Ukrainian people?

You can push your government to do something, you need to put them to do something, because Russia broke not only Ukraine: Russia broke world law and the world order, you know it’s not just war against Ukraine.

It’s a war against the world, and Ukraine is just maybe at one point in its aggression, because this war will be next against Poland, Romania, it’s very easy for Russia, northern countries or maybe Germany,

Not Russia itself but Putin and these crazy people, because Russian people for me are just slaves, honestly. It’s an abuse, some people of course protest, respect to them, but is not Ukraine, compared to how many people protest here, it’s not adDemocracy, just a totalitarian regime of Putin and so.

Do you think Ukraine can win the war?

 War of attrition is very hard. Honestly, two days ago I couldn’t even imagine that I would go home, because I usually go to the frontline in Donbass, but now I go to the frontline from Donbass to the frontline in Kyiv.

For now this district where my flat is located is very dangerous, since there are unpredictable landings (missiles), but I think that Ukraine will win, it is a matter of cost and time, but Ukraine will win, and if you can support Ukraine in any way pushing your government to donate some money and to send something to Ukrainians just do it. This is not about Ukraine, it’s about economy, democracy; and honesty, dignity and a complete tyranny and crime.

Usually war has a lot of colors, a lot of greys and shadows but this war is completely about dark and light, you understand.

Economist, writer and liberal. With a focus on finance, the war on drugs, history, and geopolitics // Economista, escritor y liberal. Con enfoque en finanzas, guerra contra las drogas, historia y geopolítica

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