DISPATCH: Ukraine Fortifies Its Entire Territory as Russian Assault Stalls


Ukrainian Military Forces servicemen of the 92nd mechanized brigade use tanks, self-propelled guns and other armored vehicles to conduct live-fire exercises near the town of Chuguev, in Kharkiv region, on February 10, 2022. - Russia’s deployment for a military exercise in Belarus and on the borders of Ukraine marks a “dangerous moment” for European security, NATO’s chief said on February 10, 2022. (Photo by Sergey BOBOK / AFP) (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)

Ukrainian Ground Forces servicemen of the 92nd Mechanized Brigade use tanks, self-propelled guns, and other armored vehicles to conduct live-fire exercises near the town of Chuguev, Kharkiv region, Feb. 10, 2022. Photo by Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images.

HORISHNI PLAVNI, Ukraine — With Russian forces stalled in their advances on Kyiv and Kharkiv, Ukrainians are taking advantage of the time to dig in to defend their country’s entire territory. If Moscow attempts to press its disarrayed invasion farther into the heart of Ukraine, its forces will face persistent resistance in the countryside along roads and at settlements distant from major cities.

Ukraine’s population is now mobilized to resist across the entire country. Residents of the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, the country’s fourth-most populous city, are fortifying their urban defenses, arming themselves, and stocking up on Molotov cocktails. In the city of Horishni Plavni, a mining city along the Dnipro River in central Ukraine, local workers are creating stocks of Molotov cocktails and building defenses at entryways into the city. Local volunteers have created an armed unit to patrol the streets in search of Russian sabotage groups.


Inside a bomb shelter in Horishni Plavni on Feb. 27, 2022. Photo by Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Horishni Plavni has endured multiple air raid alerts since Sunday, Feb. 27. At first, some residents in a Soviet-era apartment block had tears in their eyes as they sprinted into the building’s basement; they were clearly shaken by the experience. Inside the shelter, almost everyone remained fixed to their smartphones, scrolling through social media feeds, trying to learn where the attack had taken place. After a few more alarms during the ensuing day, the residents started to acclimate to the experience — some even cracked jokes about getting a good workout from running up and down the stairs so many times.

South of Kyiv, local defense forces are rapidly fortifying the countryside. At the main roads, local defense units have stacked tires into barriers to be set ablaze as smokescreens against attacking Russian forces. Defense units have also taken down road signs with the names of villages and towns in order to confuse advancing Russian forces.

In virtually every village and town along the road, groups of civilian volunteers (men and women) are filling sandbags, digging trenches, and making protected emplacements and pillboxes. Workers operate heavy machinery to move concrete barriers into place and build earthen berms to impede the movement of vehicles. Welders are also at work fashioning anti-tank hedgehogs from metal pipes.

Local defense forces have set up checkpoints on the roads leading into towns and cities, as well as at major intersections. Even the turn-offs from the main roads to small villages are usually defended by bands of area defense forces. The majority of these defensive positions are under the control of Territorial Defense units and other ad hoc resistance groups that have formed in the wake of Russia’s invasion.

When observing the pervasiveness of the roadway defenses, one certainly gets a sense of how omnipresent Ukraine’s resistance movement has become. On social media, too, numerous videos show Ukrainians across the country engaged in acts of resistance — both in combat and in protest.

A video posted to Twitter Monday showed civilians in the city of Berdyansk harassing occupying Russian soldiers. Another video from Berdyansk, which is now under Russian occupation, shows residents outside City Hall yelling at Russians to go home.

Another video obtained by Coffee or Die Magazine shows civilians in the town of Koryukivka, northeast of Kyiv, swarming a Russian tank to get it to stop. No one fired a shot. There are also instances of Ukrainian farmers using their tractors to tow away Russian vehicles and anti-aircraft systems.

For now, Russian assaults on Kyiv and Kharkiv have stalled, and many experts and officials, both in Ukraine and the West, worry that Russia may soon resort to indiscriminate warfare tactics to force these cities to fall. Indeed, Russian rocket attacks on a civilian quarter of the city of Kharkiv Monday resulted in at least 11 civilian deaths and more wounded. According to experts, videos of the attack suggest the use of cluster munitions.

Read Next: Switzerland To Freeze Russian Assets, Breaking With Tradition of Neutrality

Nolan Peterson is a senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine and the author of Why Soldiers Miss War. A former US Air Force special operations pilot and a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Nolan is now a conflict journalist and author whose adventures have taken him to all seven continents. In addition to his memoirs, Nolan has published two fiction collections. He lives in Kyiv, Ukraine, with his wife, Lilya.
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