A lady dressed in gray with her hair up hums a sweet tune as she pulls away the blankets from the sheets and separates them on the floor. She even manages to smile at me while I stare at her, my attention drawn by the song. Around her, a dozen or so people are moving all the mattresses that until now had been used by a group of Red Cross refugees to the basement of the hotel. As long as they had been here, we all felt a little safer; nobody shoots at the Red Cross, the saying goes.
By midday, they had all left: “The hotel is no longer operational,” the manager, David, explained to us. “From now on, if you want to stay it’s your choice, we can only provide you with shelter.”
“But are you staying?”
He sighs and replies that he doesn’t know.
Around 8 p.m., the garage converted to a shelter is empty, the crush of the last few days in front of the small table with food is gone, and the food is gone too. For some reason, everyone is talking quietly, and the few noises that can be heard are those of cell phones ringing.
As I go up from the underground level to my room, I can see that they have piled up tables and refrigerators in front of the main entrance. Two men in green jumpsuits are staring at the large central couch, undecided, wondering if they should move that too.
Here, in Brovary, just outside Kiev, three large explosions were heard a little while ago. The sky briefly lit up. A message on Telegram warned that the Russians have launched a new offensive against the Ukrainian capital, just as the first reports from the diplomatic meeting in Gomel began to arrive. There, on the border between Ukraine and Belarus, delegations of the two belligerent states met for the first time since the start of hostilities to discuss the conditions of a “ceasefire.” The news spoke of five hours of negotiations in which Putin’s representatives asked for the recognition of Crimea being a part of Russia, demilitarization and neutrality for Ukraine. These seem reasonable requests, in contrast to the hopelessness of the “wall against wall” situation that had been predicted. The Ukrainian delegation is returning to Kiev and internal government sources have announced that negotiations will resume “in the coming days.”
But there is no rest for the Ukrainian president in these days: before dinner, the announcement came that Zelensky has signed the official application for membership in the European Union. Meanwhile, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, declared that “Ukraine is one of us and we want them in the EU.” Throughout the day, the inhabitants of Kiev crowded in front of the few supermarkets that are open to stock up on supplies, not knowing the next time they will be able to buy food and basic necessities. The lines were very long, and for those who arrived late, only old alcohol and cigarettes of unknown brands were left.
Every time that military personnel, mostly young men, enters a store, the line opens up for them, they are allowed to go ahead and be served immediately. One of them, who bumped into me with his rifle on the way out, had filled a bag with nothing but chips and chocolate, and once he got outside, I heard fellow soldiers yelling at him before he went back in, rather embarrassed.
Putin’s statements on Monday morning saying that he would leave a humanitarian corridor open for 24 hours were interpreted in the city as a kind of threat. Many tried to leave the capital: all those who were on the streets without shopping bags had bags or suitcases in their hands. Chaos reigned supreme throughout the day but, fortunately, the sirens sounded only a few times and there were no serious incidents in the capital.
Diana, a Ukrainian who has relatives in Milan, went to the station to try to get on the free 2 p.m. train that goes to Lviv every day. Unfortunately, she could not get on the train and came back in a state of distress.
She recounted very heated scenes, with people pushing each other to squeeze into every available inch of the carriages; for a long time, the conductors were not able to close the doors.
On Monday, in the middle of the day, the Ukrainian government announced an increase in pay for the military to about $3,000 a month and an extraordinary fund of $33 million at the national bank for the armed forces. But the most sensational news, one must admit, is the offer to release jailed people who choose to enlist in the territorial defense forces.
“I know it sounds like a dangerous choice,” Zelensky said, “but the country must be defended by any means necessary.” Meanwhile, enlistments in the “international brigades” established by the Ukrainian government continue. At the moment, there are already several thousand new recruits.
As the reduction of the curfew in Kiev to the night hours only (from 8pm to 7am) was announced, the images of the Russian attack in Kharkiv had already gone around the world. According to Ukrainian sources, as of Tuesday not yet confirmed, the Russians bombarded the city with Grad missiles, causing the death of many civilians.
Also, in the same area, the mayor of Mazehora and the mayor of Pivdennyi were arrested on charges of high treason for having “cooperated with Russian forces.” Local authorities stated that the two mayors had provided support to the invaders’ troops and handed over their cities to them.
It’s difficult to get confirmation for anything happening here. The media war is an integral part of the ongoing military clash, and both states are waging it extensively in the form of communiqués and media content. What is certain is that we in the West should stop talking about supplying weapons to Ukraine as the only solution. In order to really help Ukraine, we should stop adding fuel to the fire and start facilitating peace talks. Otherwise, we will only be accomplices of a likely carnage.
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