Kiwi in Ukraine says brave locals showing ‘calm resolve’ under pressure, appreciate global help

Defiant and brave Ukrainians are united in the face of the Russian invasion, a New Zealander near Kyiv says.

Michael Devoe is now about 30km south of Ukraine’s capital after leaving his home with family two days ago.

“We were planning to leave Ukraine but the roads are just so busy,” he told the Herald tonight.

“We are five of us, three kids, so we don’t really want to get caught out on the roads. We left our house in Kyiv but the neighbours are still there and we talk to them about what’s going on.”

Devoe said it was quiet where he was and the mood of Ukrainians was generally one of “calm resolve”.

He added: “People are united. All the different regions have support groups that patrol their own streets. They’re keeping their eyes out for any enemy incursions.”

Devoe said beneath the calm, there was tension.

“A lot of people are sleeping in the bomb shelters overnight. Last I heard, four babies have been born in the bomb shelters so far.”

There has been a wave of global support for Ukraine. Hungary’s president Prime Minister Viktor Orban, previously seen as a Putin supporter, has pledged to stand with any European Union sanctions against Russia.

Elon Musk has made the Starlink service active in Ukraine, allowing people there to access satellite internet.

Australia has offered support through its Nato partners and Turkey is trying to arrange a ceasefire.

Several Western countries have agreed to cut selected Russian banks off the Swift financial transaction system.

Devoe said support from overseas was heartening.

“It’s something that people appreciate definitely and look on as good news, whether it’s support from the US financially, or things like excluding banks from SWIFT.”

He said nobody was asking for overseas soldiers to arrive but sanctions and anything else that slowed or pushed back the Russian advance would be welcomed.

“Everything that can be done to slow them down is good news for us.”

Many anti-war protests have broken out inside Russia.

“A lot of Russians are coming out saying they’re horrified by this,” Devoe said.

The previous time Devoe spoke to the Herald, a few days before the Russian invasion, he said many people in Kiev seemed to think Russian military manoeuvres were just posturing.

Today he said people were shocked when Russian president Vladimir Putin recognised the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

The massive military assault on Ukraine that followed was even more surprising, he said.

“People are used to the build-ups and the rhetoric so I guess when the bombs hit on the first day, that was quite a big shock.”

But Devoe said the Ukrainian armed forces were much stronger and more motivated than a few years ago.

“The general population is also well-motivated, armed, unified.”

In Wellington, the crisis in Ukraine will be on Cabinet’s agenda when it meets tomorrow.

Currently, New Zealand can only impose sanctions on countries using a process that goes through the United Nations.

Putin has claimed the West has failed to take seriously Russia’s security concerns about Nato and has also expressed scorn about Ukraine’s right be an independent state.

Tonight, Putin was reportedly holed up in a mountain lair, dismayed that Russian troops were unable to take one major city in three days of fighting.

Back in Ukraine, Devoe said he was not surprised at the strong resistance Ukrainians were putting up.

He recalled conversations people had before this month’s invasion, where some predicted Ukraine would be a walkover.

“No-one asked the question, what happens if Russia loses?”

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