Inside Kiev, mood is calm, skeptical of invasion: 'It looks like a political game,' soldier says

The armed forces of Ukraine are alert but not alarmed, one soldier said: "That is because we are very well prepared to fight."

Updated: January 24, 2022 - 10:19pm

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As Eastern European and Western governments rush to a prewar footing over an anticipated Russian invasion of Ukraine, the mood inside Kiev remains calm and skeptical, local citizens told Just the News.

People in town are not worried, said former infantry officer Yaroslav Vasylyuk, who served in the Ukrainian armed forces.

"The majority of the population don't believe in the intentions of Russia," Vasylyuk said. "It looks like a political game, despite all the deep concerns in the U.S. and E.U."

Those views were echoed by a currently serving soldier, Anatoly, who said that his relatives living in America are far more concerned about the situation than he is.

"They call me every day, asking, 'Did they attack?' I tell them, 'Would I be talking on the phone if Russia attacked?' Myself, I do not believe this will happen."

People in Kiev are more worried about COVID-19 mandates than about an invasion, Anatoly said, noting that demonstrators on Jan. 24 protested against COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates.

"They march against mandates, but not against Russia," he said. "What does that tell you?"

The men's observations dovetail with those of Ukrainian officials, who on Monday downplayed talk of invasion, and encouraged people to remain calm.

"There is no reason for panic," said President Volodymyr Zelensky after meeting with his country's National Security and Defense Council. 

Efforts by the United States to evacuate embassy family members from Kiev are not warranted, a Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

"While we respect right of foreign nations to ensure safety and security of their diplomatic missions, we believe such a step to be a premature one and an instance of excessive caution," Oleg Nikolenko wrote on Twitter.

International tension has soared as Russia maintains an estimated 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, and has issued ominous statements about "the start of a countdown," and claims that Moscow is being "provoked."

Moscow has claimed to be angry over the proposition that Ukraine would join NATO, even though Ukraine likely would not be admitted into the alliance. 

Alarm bells sounded in the West last week when Konstantin Gavrilov, who leads the Russian delegation at the Vienna Negotiations on Military Security and Arms Control, issued a stark warning.

"There arrives a moment of truth when the West either accepts our proposals or other ways will be found to safeguard Russia's security," Gavrilov said, adding: "We are running out of time. The countdown begins."

But while those comments alarmed the West and the countries surrounding Ukraine, the soldiers in Kiev shrugged off the notion of being threatened.

"I don't feel any special atmosphere about the invasion," Vasylyuk told Just the News. "In my opinion, for unknown reasons there is an exaggeration of real threats, an overestimation of risks."

The situation on the border is more for political than military gain, he said.

"The logical explanation is to press the Ukrainian government to make concessions to Russia," Vasylyuk said. 

The armed forces of Ukraine are alert but not alarmed, Anatoly said. "That is because we are very well prepared to fight."