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Ukrainians Yaryna Arieva and Sviatoslav Fursin got married just hours after Russia launched its invasion of their country. Having pushed up their planned May wedding, they spent their first day as a married couple signing up with the Territorial Defense Forces, a largely volunteer branch of Ukraine’s armed forces, and collecting their rifles. Photo by Yaryna Arieva via CNN.

The Fight Is Here

Abby Zimet

In striking unity against his imperious and possibly ill-judged assault on Ukraine, the world turns against Putin. Massive protests around the world - Berlin, Prague, Hong Kong, Amsterdam - continue, with over 5,000 people arrested in ongoing protests in Russia. In a move of unprecedented support at what one expert called "a definining moment for European history," foreign ministers of the E.U.'s 27 nations agreed Sunday to close its airspace to Russian airlines, spend hundreds of millions of euros buying weapons for Ukraine, ban some pro-Kremlin media outlets, and wave existing rules to take in Ukrainian refugees for up to three years without needing to apply for asylum. With the U.S. and other countries enforcing widespread economic sanctions and even long-neutral Switzerland freezing substantial Russian assets, included Putin's reported billions, Russia's economy, based on a ruble now worth about one cent, is on the brink of collapse. Electronic outlaws have joined in: Anonymous says it has hacked both the Russian Ministry of Defence and Russian state TV, and even the bawdy Ram Ranch Resistance that harassed Ottawa's right-wing truckers are asking: "Does this make Russian soldiers cum-unists?" And thousands of Latvians gathered at the Russian embassy in the capital of Riga to sing a stirring rendition of Ukraine's national anthem.

A defiant Ukraine, meanwhile, fights back. On Monday, the worst fighting to date hit Kharkiv, where Russian forces were reportedly shelling residental areas with cluster munitions, which is a possible war crime; dozens have been reported killed, hundreds wounded. Elsewhere, the Russian advance has been slowed by unexpectedly fierce resistance by Ukrainian soldiers and citizens, and despite satellite images of a three-mile convoy of tanks en route there, the capital of Kyiv has not fallen. The determinedly scrappy and now Kalashnikov-armed President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who once stood up to a vile clown's extortion demands, has refused to leave the city, posting daily videos to prove, as he periodically announces, "I'm here." "We won't lay down our arms," he said in one. "We will defend our state, our territory, our Ukraine, our children...Glory to Ukraine!" Days ago, when the U.S. proposed evacuating him, he vehemently declined the offer. "I need ammunition, not a ride," he said. "The fight is here." With rumors the Russians plan to encircle the city, stalwart residents who remain have been told to stay off the deserted streets, and Ukrainian forces are preparing. In one fierce video, a calm weathered soldier warns what he knows are largely "young boys," "You haven't even started dying yet." "Use your head, little soldiers, and think where you are headed," he urges. "To Kyiv, that has millions of residents, where you will be shot at from every fucking window. Surrender, kiddos, or you will die here in Ukraine for nothing."

Across the country, often under hashtags like #GloryToUkraine, #StandWithUkraine, #FreeUkraine, residents offer similarly ferocious messages. People have taken down digital road signs to confuse oncoming forces, replacing them with signs that read, "Go fuck yourself," "Go fuck yourself again," and "Go fuck yourself in Russia." Videos show people yelling at crying Russian soldiers, throwing bikes under tanks, standing Tiananmen-Square-like before them, and berating invaders on the street with, "What are you doing here? You have your life, and we have ours." In what some dubbed a perfect Ukrainian Gothic image, armed sweethhearts Yaryna Arieva and Sviatoslav Fursin posed after moving up their May wedding to hours after the Russian invasion; they spent their first married day signing up with the volunteer Territorial Defense Forces and picking up their rifles, because, "There is a lot of work to do." They join many other residents of Kyiv, often older, who've likewise started training. Video shows a radio call from a Russian tanker begging Georgians to refuel their ships; when they confirm they're Russian, the Georgians smilingly tell them, "Go fuck yourselves - Russia has no friends but Trump." Adds his colleague, "You have oars - row." In Volyn, a 97-year-old grandmother proclaims, "I survived Hitler and the Germans. I was at the reconstruction of Donbas. I will survive Putin and his locusts." Widely hailed as a hero is Vitaly Skakuna, a soldier who gave his life to manually blow up the mined Henichesky Bridge while a Russian column advanced. In a silent night on the outskirts of Kyiv, a lone  trumpet suddenly plays the national anthem; from the darkness come cries of, "Glory to Ukraine!" And from a packed bomb shelter, clutching her baby with her two kids beside her, a young mother pleads, "Whatever country you're in, please protest Putin. Help us."

For now, up to a half million people, largely women and children,  have fled their besieged homes and are streaming out of Ukraine; the U.N. estimates up to five million of Ukraine's 44 million residents may leave in what could become Europe's largest humanitarian crisis since 2015's flood of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan. Most are heading to the cloggged borders of neighboring Poland, Romania, Hungary and Moldova, often waiting in freezing temperatures for up to 40 hours; this weekend, at the border with Poland, people waited in a nine-mile backlog. But there, too, humanity has often stepped up. At the Romanian border, hundreds drove in cars loaded with supplies to pick up and shelter strangers stranded there. At the border with Hungary, Ukrainian Nataliya Ableyeva, 58, whose two adult children had remained behind as essential workers, held the hands of two small children she'd never met as she crossed; their desperate father, who by law had to stay in Ukraine, had entrusted them to her until their mother could arrive. And at the Polish border, heroic, omnipresent chef José Andrés and his non-profit World Central Kitchen - now Chefs for Ukraine - were handing out thousands of hot meals from mobile kitchens he's still setting up at multiple border crossings, as well as inside Ukraine. "People of the world," he proclaimed as he stood in frigid weather, “We must come together as a force for good!” Someone please give this man a Nobel Peace Prize. Meanwhile, help Ukraine here.


Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: azimet18@gmail.com

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