Many of those weapons were taken by members of new volunteer defense groups that had sprung up in local communities. Under a new law passed in January, these groups are now legal nationwide, and their leaders loosely report to Ukrainian army commanders. What about weapons? Their members bring whatever they can.
“It’s BYOG,” said Daniel Bilak, the leader of one such group, which is active outside Kyiv, “that is: Bring Your Own Gun.”
Bilak, 61, is a Canadian -born lawyer with a Ukrainian heritage who immigrated to Ukraine about 30 years ago. His own gun, he says, is an AR-15 he bought recently in Ukraine.
The defense team he leads is called the Wolverines, a nod to the heroes of the 1984 film “Red Dawn” about a group of American high school students who defeat the Soviet invasion of the United States. Of course, the rugged, small, blue-and-yellow Wolverine dress of X-Men fame might work as well, but Bilak said he hasn’t seen comics or movies yet.
In the weeks before the Russian invasion began, the Wolverines held weekend training sessions on farms and forests outside Kyiv. Now, in the fierce battle for Kyiv, Bilak said they are conducting nightly patrols to maintain order and catch Russia’s alleged saboteurs.
For men over the age of 60, the age limit for army service, groups like Wolverine are a way to directly participate in the defense of the country, and they are an integral part of Ukraine’s bootstrap strategy for in preventing a larger. and better equipped Russian army.
Furthermore, in case Russia prevails on the battlefield, they could be blocks for a popular insurgency thereafter.
“If Vladimir Putin is foolish to try and seize Ukraine, he will face a highly motivated and well -armed population,” said James Stavridis, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former NATO supreme allied commander. “Grandma going wild can be her worst nightmare.”
While groups like the Wolverines are showing Ukraine’s nails against the Russian war machine, human rights experts are warning about the dangers of providing weapons to civilians with limited military training.
“Once you pick up that weapon,” Sarah Yager, Washington’s director at Human Rights Watch, “you lose your civilian status, which means you can be targeted. And it also means you have to comply with those.” laws of war. And of course, no one practices the laws of war. ”
However, Ukrainians like Daniel believe that they are taking up arms not only for their country, but for something bigger.
“We are fighting for every democratic country,” he said, “certainly in Europe and for democratic and European values.”
And despite the long opportunity, he says, “this is not a suicide mission.”