Kiev, Texas-born Ukrainian exchange student with family at home: ‘I would like to help them somehow’ – Reuters

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As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its fourth day, embattled citizens unite around shared fears, faith in their democracy, and defiance of the autocrat next door.

Russian troops broke through the Kyiv city limits on Friday evening, with gunfire and explosions echoing through the city center. Civilians sought refuge in underground bunkers or tried to flee the city as Ukraine’s defense forces exceeded expectations, clinging to their democracy on the edge of the free world.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, the former world champion boxer, has decreed a citywide curfew for civilians in a bid to keep them indoors throughout the fighting – as well as to thwart the attempts by alleged Russian saboteurs.

A deserted street is seen after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Kiev, Ukraine February 26, 2022. Inset photo: 17-year-old Ukrainian Danill Rusanyuk. He has been studying in Texas for six months.
(REUTERS/Umit Bektas/Inset: Daniil Rusanyuk)

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Daniil Rusanyuk is a 17-year-old Ukrainian foreign student who has been studying in Texas for six months. He first gave his age as 16 – before correcting himself. His birthday was earlier this week, but he had a lot on his mind.

“It’s like a birthday present,” he said of the invasion.

“A very bad birthday present. »

On February 25, 2022, in Kyiv, Ukraine, a woman works to clean up debris in her apartment after the building was heavily damaged during military operations.
(UNICEF)

The rest of his family is in Kiev, where he was born and raised. He said his cousin texted him from a fallout shelter – where she said a woman had given birth as gunfire and explosions echoed throughout the city. His parents can hear gunshots from their central Kiev home at night, and two of his younger cousins ​​are hiding in a bunker.

Two friends, he also said – each 18 – texted him saying they planned to help defend Kiev.

“I am very worried about this,” he admitted.

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He also reiterated reports that Russian saboteurs marked buildings and areas around Kyiv for attack. It is believed that many of them arrived early. It is believed they rented apartments and hid until the invasion began, he said.

Authorities have asked civilians to conceal these markings and remain vigilant.

At the same time, people around the world are watching Ukraine’s determination. The government has distributed thousands of automatic rifles to civilians, who have formed militias to defend their homes, people on the ground told Fox News Digital.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks alongside other Ukrainian officials in the government district of Kyiv, confirming he is still in the capital, in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 25, 2022 - in this screenshot obtained from a video to distribute.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks alongside other Ukrainian officials in the government district of Kyiv, confirming he is still in the capital, in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 25, 2022 – in this screenshot obtained from a video to distribute.
(Ukrainian Presidential News Service/Handout via Reuters)

As women and children tried to flee, the government asked all men between the ages of 18 and 60 to join the war effort – and officials say even members of Ukraine’s parliament took up arms.

“These people are fighting for their freedom, and they’re doing it because they love their country,” Daniel Hoffman, a former senior CIA officer and station chief, told Fox News Digital. “They shame us. They say, ‘We want to fight for democracy, freedom and all the things that are written into your Constitution and your Bill of Rights.’ »

US and UK intelligence officials said Ukraine’s defense exceeded Russian expectations, at least at the start of the invasion.

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On Thursday, a Russian Navy warship ordered a group of 13 Ukrainian soldiers to lay down their arms and surrender, video shows. “Russian warship,” they replied, “fuck you. »

All were killed in the ensuing shelling and will be recognized as national heroes, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. Now their last words are appearing on digital road signs on highways around Kyiv, images show, one Rusanyuk says his father sent him.

Another rallying cry, “Welcome to Hell,” was echoed by official government accounts on Twitter and sprayed on road signs in the path of the Russian invaders.

“It certainly brought people together in Ukraine,” Rusanyuk said. “So many people help others. It’s wonderful to see how they help the army, bringing them food. »

Ukrainian soldiers take position at the Vasylkiv military air base in the Kiev region, Ukraine, on February 26, 2022.

Ukrainian soldiers take position at the Vasylkiv military air base in the Kiev region, Ukraine, on February 26, 2022.
(REUTERS/Maksim Levine)

But it has also been a trying week. He shared a video he said his mother had recorded overnight, from her home near a military hospital in Kyiv.

“I have friends from Russia and it’s actually very strange for me and weird, because we speak the same language…and you just go to war with each other?” »

In the darkness, a streak of light crossed the sky. Automatic gunfire and explosions rumbled like a passive train, just as they had the night before.

“They heard fighting there all night,” he said. Her father is a veteran and they have chosen not to evacuate, even though they fear they will be trapped if the Russians surround the town.

Even if they did, he said, the roads are congested, fuel is scarce and the government has ordered men between the ages of 18 and 60 to stay and fight.

A screenshot of drone footage shows cars forming a line that stretches about 35 km from the Shehyni border crossing to Poland as people try to flee the Russian military operation against Ukraine, in outside Mostyska, Ukraine on February 26, 2022.

A screenshot of drone footage shows cars forming a line that stretches about 35 km from the Shehyni border crossing to Poland as people try to flee the Russian military operation against Ukraine, in outside Mostyska, Ukraine on February 26, 2022.
(REUTERS/Natalie Thomas)

Another heartbreaking detail: Many people have blood relatives across the border, Rusanyuk said. His grandmother lives in Crimea under Russian control, which Vladimir Putin seized in 2014.

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“I have friends from Russia and it’s actually very strange for me and weird, because we speak the same language…and you just go to war with each other?” ” he said.

“And I also think, my friends – like, what is going on there? And they are also scared because we know each other so well, and we continue the war [against] each other as brother [on] brother. »

Russia’s war on Ukraine has sparked protests around the world, including in Russia itself, and harsh sanctions from the West, NATO, the United States, Asian allies and of the European Union.

Surveillance footage shows a missile hitting a residential building in Kiev, Ukraine, February 26, 2022, in this still image taken from video.

Surveillance footage shows a missile hitting a residential building in Kiev, Ukraine, February 26, 2022, in this still image taken from video.
(Reuters)

On Saturday, after days of delay, the United States and the EU announced in a joint statement that they would block “selected” Russian banks from accessing the Society for Global Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or SWIFT, system. backbone of international banking. (A senior Biden administration official called it “Gmail for banks” on Saturday.)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has demanded the move since the start of the invasion.

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The United States increased its military presence in Europe towards the end of the week, particularly in NATO member countries neighboring Ukraine.

On February 25, 2022 in Kiev, Ukraine, a young girl looks at the crater left by an explosion in front of a building heavily damaged during ongoing military operations.

On February 25, 2022 in Kiev, Ukraine, a young girl looks at the crater left by an explosion in front of a building heavily damaged during ongoing military operations.
(UNICEF)

The United States and Germany also pledged to supply weapons after Zelenskyy refused an American offer to be evacuated from Kyiv. “The fight is here,” he said, according to the translation. “I need ammunition, not a round. »

Meanwhile, Rusanyuk and his friends have their own translation for NATO: “No Action, Talk Only”.

A Ukrainian serviceman opens the door of a disabled Russian military multiple rocket launcher on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. Russian troops charged into the Ukrainian capital on Friday, with gunfire and explosions resonating ever closer to the government quarter, in an invasion of a democratic country that fueled fears of a wider war in Europe and sparked global efforts to stop Russia.

A Ukrainian serviceman opens the door of a disabled Russian military multiple rocket launcher on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. Russian troops charged into the Ukrainian capital on Friday, with gunfire and explosions resonating ever closer to the government quarter, in an invasion of a democratic country that fueled fears of a wider war in Europe and sparked global efforts to stop Russia.

“They imposed sanctions on Russia,” the high school student said. “They don’t help Ukraine…Putin doesn’t care. »

Ukraine needs troops and weapons, according to Rusanyuk. “Not sanctions – we need real things,” he said.

However, even with a war raging at home, he said he would rather be in Kiev to help than be safe in Texas.

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“My family is there, my little cousins ​​are there – they are sleeping in bunkers,” he said. “I would like to help them one way or another. »

Marisa Schultz of Fox News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Kiev, Texas-born Ukrainian exchange student with family at home: ‘I would like to help them somehow’ – Reuters

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