Ukraine defense chief urges ‘calm’ as fears of Russian invasion build

KYIV, Ukraine — Despite dire warnings from the White House and the Pentagon about the growing number of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border and what is being presented as an imminent “overnight” invasion, Ukrainian leaders say their people to “keep calm”.

Two hours north of the Ukrainian capital, in an abandoned town outside Chernobyl, decades after one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters, Ukrainian forces trained in urban combat in freezing temperatures outside interior of deserted buildings. Fox News attended the live-fire training, which included ambush, sniper, mortar, evacuation and advanced firefighting scenarios.

Some 30,000 Russian troops, dozens of attack aircraft and fourth-generation air defense systems have now massed on the Ukrainian border, not far from Chernobyl in neighboring Belarus to the north, according to US officials. Asked by a Fox News reporter if he feared Russian forces were invading Belarus, less than 100 miles from Ukraine’s capital Kiev, the country’s defense chief didn’t seem worried.

“I’m not worried,” said Oleksii Reznikov, Ukrainian Defense Minister. “I am very, very sure that the Ukrainian armed forces are ready for deterrence, for resilience. The Ukrainian people are also ready for deterrence.”

Members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine.
(AP/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

“The word ‘imminent’ doesn’t work,” he added. “Keep calm.”

While it appears many Ukrainian citizens are heeding this advice, going about their daily lives, including shopping at the local supermarket, hundreds more woke up early on Sunday to begin weapons training offered by Ukrainian military veterans, some who saw fighting in the east, where Ukraine’s armed forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists since 2014. More than 14,000 Ukrainians have been killed.

“I’m worried about my family and my children,” said Valentina, who asked that only her first name be used to protect her identity. “I would like to share my knowledge with my children. We want to survive.”

“I want to live in a democratic European country,” she added.

Members of the Territorial Defense Forces of Ukraine, voluntary military units of the Armed Forces, train in January 2022.

Members of the Territorial Defense Forces of Ukraine, voluntary military units of the Armed Forces, train in January 2022.
(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Fox News attended training for local citizens of all ages, which included familiarization with small arms, basic first aid and how to assemble bombs using basic household items.

A group of three Ukrainian teenagers have explained why they got up early on a Sunday and endured the freezing temperatures for weapons training.

“We are ready to defend our country to the end, even if we have to die for it,” said Yuriy, who like the others would only give his first name.

The only teenager in the group, Maria, admitted she was “worried” about a possible Russian invasion.

A veteran of Ukraine’s war against Russian-backed separatists was asked how much damage hundreds of citizens could inflict on an invading Russian army.

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“You see five hundred, but I see millions,” Vladislav Sobolevskiy said on Sunday. “This is our country. We have lived here for a thousand years, and we can and will fight Russia.”

Ukrainian soldiers carry out military exercises in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on January 12.

Ukrainian soldiers carry out military exercises in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on January 12.
(Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

During a demonstration, Ukrainian teenagers learned how to make Molotov cocktails. The instructor mixed oil and gasoline in a jar, lit a damp cloth and threw the concoction against a brick wall inside an abandoned building.

The accelerated training of Ukrainian forces, citizens and medical personnel came as US officials in Washington predicted that tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens would be killed if Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion.

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“We strongly prefer that Russia choose the path of diplomacy and dialogue, but if not, we are fully prepared for the alternative,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday alongside of his Polish counterpart a few hours in front of nearly 2,000 American paratroopers from the The 82nd Airborne Division landed in Poland – reinforcements ordered by President Biden.

On “Fox News Sunday”, a senior presidential aide warned that a Russian invasion could come “any day” or possibly within the next few weeks.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan has been open to the idea that an arms control treaty between the United States and Russia could help defuse the situation on the Ukrainian border, where 130,000 Russian troops gathered from three different directions.

“If Russia wants to sit at the table and do that, we are ready to come with allies and partners and negotiate in that direction. If Russia chooses a different path, we are ready for that too,” Sullivan told Fox News’ Martha. McCallum.

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On Sunday, on Twitter, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged his people to ignore “doomsday predictions” about a possible Russian invasion.

“The enemy should be afraid of us, not us of them,” he added.

Fox News’ Melissa Chrise contributed reporting from Kyiv.