Kiev. Fifth day of war. The curfew, decreed on Saturday by the mayor of this capital still surrounded from the air and with columns of Russian armored vehicles approaching ever closer, has finally expired.
It is a sunny, cold day. And there is enormous skepticism regarding the negotiations that began this afternoon between a Russian and a Ukrainian delegation to stop the madness and negotiate a ceasefire in which no one seems to believe.
While some take the opportunity to continue escaping from the city – the Russians gave authorization to civilians to leave and the United Nations estimates that there are already 500,000 Ukrainian refugees – in the Podil neighborhood, in the center, people are emerging from their hiding places underground. You have to go out to buy food, which is beginning to be scarce, to take in oxygen, to breathe air, to see the sun.
In a city that is always deserted, without cars, which has had a relatively calmer night compared to the last few days, with fewer bombings, the weather is increasingly surreal. In Kontraktova Square, a young woman in pink joggers with headphones on runs around the statue of Gregory Skovoroda, a philosopher of Ukrainian Cossack origin who lived and worked in the Russian Empire at the end of the 18th century. “No, I don’t listen to music, I follow the news,” she tells LA NACIÓN in English.
Alexandra says that the talks started today in Gomel – a town on the border with Belarus, an ally of Vladimir Putin, four hours north of this capital – are “welcome”, but that she does not think they will change the dramatic situation she is experiencing at all. Ukraine and which keeps the whole world in suspense, which sees how everything could degenerate into a world conflict, marked, moreover, by a nuclear threat, as the Kremlin leader warned yesterdayfurther alarming the planet.
“Putin is crazy, he wants our land and with these negotiations he just wants to buy time,” says Alexandra, who is a runner and who was about to go crazy after being confined for almost two days in the bunker of the building where she lives. “That’s why you see me running, I desperately needed it.”
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A man walks his two Afghan hounds, a lady with a fur hat, her sausage, and Natalia plays with Matías, her 9-year-old son. Like many other people in the neighborhood, Natalia, who is an English teacher, woke up early.
As soon as the curfew ended at 8, accompanied by her son, who also needed to go out because he is hyper-active, she says, she went to the supermarket to buy food. “I no longer had anything left in the refrigerator and we had to stand in line from eight in the morning until eleven. They let in tens and they give half an hour of shopping time and people are confused because the shelves are starting to get empty. There is no fresh milk anymore, only long life, no eggs, no bread, no meat and I only found frozen vegetables and frozen pelmeny (the traditional Russian ravioli), ”she says. “I hope tomorrow I can buy more… The only thing that is still in quantity is everything sweet, so he is happy,” she says, pointing to her son.
What do you think of the negotiations? “For me they will not work. Putin has a plan, which is to take our land, the Ukraine. Putin wants to be the king of all Ukraine, he does not want negotiations. He is deceiving us. I think he’s gone totally insane, he’s attacking civilians, he’s killing our children. And one of his close collaborators should grab a gun and kill him for this nightmare to end, ”he assures.
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Maxime agrees, a 35-year-old mechanical engineer now unemployed, wearing a gray wool hat, glasses and earring, who also went shopping and also took the opportunity to let his little son, Boris, get some air. “Negotiations are pointlessThey won’t give any results. Unfortunately Russia and Belarus have already shown their intentions. Putin got into too dangerous a game and a diplomatic solution seems very difficult to me. How many attempts were there at political negotiations in the last few weeks and we still got to this, a war, a total invasion?” he asks.
How are you experiencing the situation? “Terrified, like everyone. We are in a shelter, we think it is better to stay here because we are surrounded by the Russians and leaving Kiev at this time may be even more dangerous because the Russians are attacking many other cities as well… We try to get on with life as we can, with the education of the boys, doing readings”, he says. At that moment a lady in an embroidered jacket who precedes him in the long line in front of the supermarket, she bursts into tears. “They are attacking very close to here, they are coming,” she says in Ukrainian, as translated by Maxim.
Anton joins the chorus of skeptics and distrustful, who says that he is a 31-year-old sociologist, politician and investment manager. “Negotiations are not going to lead anywhere. The Russians are buying time,” he states. “Putin will only be able to sing victory if he takes Kiev, our capital, and that is why these negotiations are to buy time and prepare better, because he realized that, although we have much fewer resources, we Ukrainians are resisting with all our might,” he adds, specify that he is part of a group of volunteers willing to fight and defend the capital.
Groups of armed men are also seen, such as three young men with camouflaged military-style pants, combat backpacks, black balaclavas and yellow armbands. While they are gracious when we stop them to ask if they speak English, they don’t want to give much more information. Evidently they are part of those local combat forces that are fighting against the enemy in confrontations that, according to press sources, are already taking place in some neighborhoods of the capital.
In fact, just as it is now normal for the gloomy siren to suddenly sound that warns of an imminent aerial bombardment – to which some react by running to their shelters, but others do not flinch, they remain in line at the supermarket, because the most important thing is the food, as it happens after noon, suddenly there is gunfire.
Katerina, 33, with straight blonde hair and manager of a local bar, is the only one who shows a modicum of optimism. “Although it will not change the situation too much, I think that the fact that, anyway, there are negotiations, is an important step. And maybe we can move in a good direction,” she comments. “We’ll see, today is already a better day than yesterday,” she adds, alluding to the fact that at least she was able to get out of “the mousetrap.” Single, she says that she actually lives in another neighborhood of the city, in a very tall residential building, so she decided to move with her mother to the bar she runs, because it is located in the basement of this fashionable neighborhood, the neighborhood of the artists, from the center of Kiev.
“There surely we are more protected,” she says, stressing that at the moment she does not plan to leave Kiev either. “I am staying and I am going to help those who are fighting to defend my city as much as possible, providing food, clothing, whatever is needed. “Although my plan B is to escape to Italy, where I have an ex-boyfriend ready to receive me at her house because we remain very good friends,” she adds, with a smile.
What do you think of Putin? “That he is crazy, he is a sick personwe are in the 21st century, in the center of Europe, this invasion is unacceptable, this war is inconceivable, unimaginable, we still cannot believe that it is really happening”.
About the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who was also skeptical of the ongoing negotiations and who continues to harangu the population to resist, Katarina only has words of admiration: “he is the man of the year, our great national pride”.
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