The National Times - Guns, blasts and smiles in Kyiv under military curfew

Guns, blasts and smiles in Kyiv under military curfew

Guns, blasts and smiles in Kyiv under military curfew
Guns, blasts and smiles in Kyiv under military curfew

Men with long guns peered out of slow-moving cars Sunday after a night of booms and gunfire under Kyiv's state-of-war curfew -- imposed with shoot-on-sight orders.

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There was growing sense of a city under siege among the city's three million residents -- or at least those who had still had not fled -- fearful of coming under fire from either the Russians or their own security forces.

"What can you do?" Olena Vasylyaka asked, while dashing from her top-floor apartment to a basement sheltering her son and a few dozen neighbours.

"Of course we suffer. But it's fine, that's our life now," the 50-year-old said. "The sense of shock is wearing off."

Soldiers told AFP they were just as worried about a covert infiltration by disguised Russian soldiers as they were of the mortars and Grad missiles the Kremlin's army is lobbing at Kyiv.

The city imposed its curfew to clear the streets and make any such undercover invasion less likely.

But it has added to a sinister sense of paranoia on Kyiv's near deserted streets.

The night began with cracks of gunfire -- a sign of either soldiers firing warning shots at pedestrians or of actual fighting on the streets.

Ambulances raced across some avenues and armed men in olive uniforms filled unmarked cars driving at a crawl.

Birds chirped in the still sunshine, then scattered from a thumping boom or the occasional cracks of gunfire.

Flora Stepanova took it all in serenely while smoking a cigarette in the middle of an empty park in a city under military curfew.

"I can't say I'm not afraid. Of course it's a little dangerous," the 41-year-old said, with an odd smile.

"But I think if you are careful and look around, it's safer than staying in front of a TV and watching the news all day, because that will drive you crazy."

- 'We are the coolest' -

And yet an odd sense of pride is also filling Kyiv that the city has still not been invaded.

"We like our army," Olena's 23-year-old son Oleg said down in the basement.

"We love them because they are doing things that were not expected of them. They are doing so much," he beamed, proudly.

"We are the coolest nation in the world."

Yet the young man shows signs of strain and worry.

His little drawing book -- a personal passion -- is filled anxious-looking swirls that help him take his mind off things.

The basement is filled with families who dart quick glances at their phone screens while stretched out on floor mats and sofas.

- 'Calm and awful' -

The streets above them featured often surreal scenes of a men strutting with assault rifles and couples carrying plastic bags full of emergency supplies.

One street was guarded by a soldier and an armed man who inexplicably covered the back of his head with a Guy Fawkes mask -- the symbol of the hacktivist group Anonymous.

A man smoked a cigarette outside a closed bank. A few armed men inspected the trunk of a family car a few steps away from him.

One dangerously swerving car raced down an empty boulevard before screeching to a halt and inexplicably racing back.

Its driver tossed out a full block of cigarettes to a few reporters and then sped off without barely uttering word.

He was soon followed by policemen and a few armoured vehicles trying to clear the streets.

"Everything is calm and everything is awful," a smoking man who identified himself only as Yuriy -- for personal security reasons -- said from his balcony.

"Who has it easy now? This is war."