KYIV (Reuters) – Residents of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv dismissed on Wednesday Russian President Vladimir Putin’s callup of military reservists as a mark of desperation and expressed confidence in their own armed forces to drive Russian troops from their country.
In the first such mobilisation in Russia since World War Two, Putin called up 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine and said Moscow would respond with the might of all its vast arsenal if the West pushed what he called its “nuclear blackmail” over the conflict there.
“The threat would be bigger if there was a general (Russian) mobilisation, but I think at this point Putin is afraid to undertake such a step because Russians prefer to fight with words,” said Viktor Chekhnii, 46, a geographer who works at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. He added that few Russians wanted to go to the battlefield.
“I still believe Putin isn’t insane, there is some rationality in him. So if nuclear weapons are used, this could endanger the existence of Russia as well as the whole world.”
Another Kiev resident, Oleksandr Sharkin, 31, clutching a bunch of flowers as he walked near the neo-classical opera house, echoed that sentiment.
“If they (the Russians) are forced to fight a war, the motivation of their soldiers will be even lower than that of the contractors,” he said.
Kyiv and its Western allies have cited Russian soldiers’ low morale as one of the reasons for the slow progress of what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
There was strong support among Kyiv residents for Ukraine’s own armed forces, who helped by Western arms have been battling Russia’s much bigger military for nearly seven months on several fronts and recaptured swathes of land in recent weeks.
Russian forces gave up their attempt to seize Kyiv itself in the early days of the war after meeting fierce Ukrainian resistance and turned their focus instead to other regions.
“I think we have to trust our armed forces and no one else. Threats will always come from them (the Russians) while they exist, so there is no point in listening to them or negotiating. These are all empty words,” said Kyrylo Kundik, 23, a student.
Hanna, 42, who declined to give her surname, said she believed Putin no longer knew what to do in Ukraine and was trying to “make people fear his words”.
“He is a mentally ill person. I believe in Ukraine’s armed forces and hope that nothing bad will happen and that we will be defended. So we trust in our guys at the frontlines,” she said.
(Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich)