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Ukrainians hone survival skills as Russia tensions mount

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In a forest on the outskirts of Kyiv, a group of Ukrainian civilians build shelters from snow and tree branches as part of a crash course in survival techniques. 

For the participants, the two days of  learning how to make fires and get by in sub-zero temperatures has taken on a new urgency as fears swirl over a buildup of Russian troops on the border.  

Ukraine is used to war. Since 2014 it has been locked in a conflict with Moscow-backed separatists in the east of the country that has cost over 13,000 lives. 

“People in the big cities got used to the fact that the conflict was far away from them,” says instructor Sergiy Vyshnevsky, 40, kitted out in military camouflage. 

Vyshnevsky fought on the front line as a volunteer before starting the survival courses for civilians. He details the chaos that could follow any attack — huge crowds fleeing for the borders, casualties, destroyed infrastructure. 

Around 4,000 people have signed up for an online webinar he is giving soon.

Student psychologist Yana Kaminska, 33, attends the course with her boyfriend as she tries to prepare both physically and mentally for what might be ahead.   

“First of all it is to look after our families,” she says 

– Self-defence –

Around 150 women watched on in a university lecture hall over the weekend as an instructor showed how to incapacitate an unarmed attacker by targeting the pressure points on their head and neck. 

“Everyone understands that their life and health and the health and lives their family are their own personal responsibility,” said the lawyer. 

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has desperately sought to calm nerves in the face of a growing clamour of worry from the US. 

But human resources manager Oleksandra Kovalenko, 25, said she still wanted to be primed for any possibility. 

– Wooden Kalashnikovs –

The course was entitled “Do not panic, prepare yourself!”.

They practised how to hold, aim and move with a gun — many of them using wooden models of Kalashnikov rifles. 

“Your left leg is still in the wrong place!” a trainer shouted at a young man as he tried to pivot.

“It is my country, how can I not worry,” Evgeny Petryk, 20, said after getting to grips with his rifle. 

“Probable or not, it is not for me to judge,” he said.

del/gmo/har 



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