Ukraine Prepares Civilians to Be the Resistance

Volunteers train on weekends, hoping to deter a Russian invasion
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2021 3:47 PM CST
Ukraine Civilians Train to Provide Resistance
Ukrainian servicemen walk to their positions Monday at the frontline with Russia-backed separatists in the Yasynuvata district of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.   (AP Photo/Andriy Andriyenko)

When the US struggled during its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to put down outnumbered and outgunned insurgents, Ukraine was paying attention. It's looking at a possible invasion now by Russian forces and Russian-backed separatists, and one of Ukraine's strategies is preparing a civilian force to pick up the fight after an invasion, the New York Times reports. "We have a strong army, but not strong enough to defend against Russia," said a doctor undergoing military training. "If we are occupied, and I hope that doesn't happen, we will become the national resistance."

The army has been training volunteers on weekends since last year, and they're being divided into units of the new Territorial Defense Forces. In addition, signups pay their own way to be trained by private paramilitary organizations. The goal isn't to defeat Russia's military, which Ukraine's generals say even their regular forces would be unlikely to do in an all-out war, per the Times. The idea is to establish a strong civilian force that's able to disrupt foreign occupying troops, and that could act as a deterrent to an invasion—just as a strong military does. The military wants to have 100,000 volunteers ready. But there are risks to building such a force.

A study by the Institute for the Study of War in Washington warned that Ukraine's internal political divisions could turn the militias into a problem. An invasion might lead the armed groups to "quickly turn into a decentralized insurgency in many parts of the country," the study said. For now, the volunteers are working quickly to be ready. "People who are prepared won't panic," said a 25-year-old woman practicing rushing to a fallen soldier with her medical kit. The way a 56-year-old ad executive learning explosives sees it: "The more coffins we send back, the more the Russian people will start thinking twice." (Putin sounds unyielding about the Ukraine standoff in his end-of-the-year press conference.)

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