As Russian forces have continued their massive invasion of Ukraine, bringing heavy losses to Ukraine’s regular military forces, Ukrainian civilians have begun to take up arms to aid in the defense.
On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced, “We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country. Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities.”
Zelensky added, “We will lift sanctions on all citizens of Ukraine who are ready to defend our country as part of territorial defense with weapons in hands.”
Within hours of Zelensky’s announcement, video began to emerge of Ukrainian civilians lining up to join militia forces in Kyiv.
Some Ukrainian civilians have been anticipating having to take up arms to fend off a Russian invasion.
In the days before Russian forces launched their attack, one Ukrainian civilian told an interviewer, “I’m an engineer, I really don’t want to fight, I don’t like to fight – but if somebody comes to kill myself and my family, definitely I will defend.”
In one viral video taken Thursday, a father said goodbye to his children before placing them on a bus, leaving the area of the fighting. He reportedly parted ways with his family so he could stay behind to fight in defense of his country.
On Friday, videos emerged of Ukrainian civilians breaking open and distributing boxes of rifles.
In an interview with CNN on Friday, former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, armed himself with an AKS-74U rifle.
Poroshenko also said his particular territorial defense battalion already consists of about 300 people, and is armed with four British-Swedish designed NLAW anti-tank missile launchers and two machine guns.
Poroshenko said there’s been a long line of civilians waiting to enlist with Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces “but we don’t have enough arms” for everyone.
As of Thursday afternoon, Ukraine’s interior minister had reported some 10,000 automatic rifles had been distributed to civilian volunteers in Kyiv.
On Thursday, former heavyweight boxing champion and Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said he would also join in the fighting, alongside his brother and fellow Ukrainian boxing hall-of-famer Wladimir Klitschko.
Within hours of vowing to take up arms, Klitschko was photographed in a camouflage uniform, holding a machine gun.
Two other members of Kyiv’s city council announced they had also joined the defense. The two shared a video of themselves in uniforms, with rifles on a bus.
Other pictures showed civilians in their everyday attire, receiving and loading rifles.
Ukraine’s defense ministry has reportedly said civilians need only present a passport to join with the country’s territorial defense units.
Civilian volunteers were also seen waiting to be armed in the western city of Lviv.
Videos have shown long lines of individuals waiting to receive rifles on Friday.
Ukrainian radio broadcasters have reportedly begun sharing instructions for making homemade incendiary bombs, known as Molotov Cocktails.
Workers at a beer store reportedly also started pouring out the bottles and giving them to civilians for their Molotovs.
Video from one village near Kyiv showed civilians pouring a mixture of gasoline and styrofoam into their bottles. When styrofoam dissolves in gasoline it turns into a napalm-like inflammatory substance.
A diagram was also passed around showing where on a tank to aim Molotov cocktails.
On Thursday evening, NBC reporter Garrett Haake tweeted, “On with @maddow from Ukraine, NBC’s @ErinNBCNews reports there is a pizza shop owner in Kiev offering free pizzas to any Ukrainian who shows they’ve got a gun with which to fight Russians. Extraordinary.”