The Ukrainian government is increasing its efforts to arm civilians as Russia’s attack intensifies.
The Interior Minister said 10,000 automatic rifles have been handed out to citizens of the capital city Kyiv on Thursday, according to a reporter with The Kyiv Independent. The distribution of arms happened over a matter of mere hours while the city was under siege from Russian airstrikes and paratrooper drops.
The news comes after the Ukrainian government passed a law formalizing civilian gun regulations and codifying the right to armed self-defense on the eve of the invasion. It appears to be part of a broader strategy to rely on the resistance of the Ukrainian people to help fight off the Russian invaders. The country has been defended by volunteer forces in the dispute with Russian separatists in the eastern regions of the country since 2014 and has even offered training on guerilla tactics. The government formalized the role of “Territorial Defense Forces” in the military chain of command.
If Ukraine can effectively arm and mobilize a large number of armed civilians to resist the invasion, it will increase the difficulty Russia faces in obtaining and maintaining control of the nation of 43 million.
Ukrainian leaders have maintained they would fiercely resist an invasion by whatever means necessary. General Oleksandr Pavlyuk, who has commanded the Joint Operation Forces against the Russian-backed separatists, told The New York Times in December the country
“We’ll start a partisan war,” he said of the possibility of a Russian invasion wiping out the formal military. “Eight years have passed and there are very many people with military experience who are prepared with weapons in their hands to fight.”
Pavlyuk estimated about half a million Ukrainians have fighting experience and could form the basis of long-term resistance to Russian occupation. The country has already called on civilians to join the volunteer fighting forces and hopes to immediately recruit around 130,000 to fight. Should the government fall or the military be overrun, one anonymous Ukrainian official told The Times they would simply “open its weapons depots and allow the Ukrainian people to take whatever they need to defend themselves and their families.”
News outlets have spoken to a number of Ukrainian civilians who are either buying guns or participating in the training. Many seem to agree with Pavlyuk’s plan to resist.
“We have a strong army, but not strong enough to defend against Russia,” Marta Yuzkiv, a clinical research doctor, told The Times a few weeks later. “If we are occupied, and I hope that doesn’t happen, we will become the national resistance.”
“What are we supposed to do? Stay and wait for them?” Andriy Sadovyi, mayor of Western Ukraine’s Lviv, told Newsy. “We won’t let them kill us.”
56-year-old advertising executive Ihor Gribenoshko, who joined volunteer training on how to arm anti-tank mines, put it more bluntly.
“The more coffins we send back, the more the Russian people will start thinking twice,” he told The Times.