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Everyone is doing their best to carry on as normal in Ukraine – but that is easier said than done

The long, cold winter with its unforgiving leaden skies hangs heavy over the Ukrainian capital. The word people use over and over again at the moment is surreal.

Cars still choke up the streets as shoppers dodge the slush on the pavement, but life is not normal.

News of a possible closure of the country’s airspace to commercial flights adds to the feelings of anxiety.

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Ukrainians say ‘we have to be ready’

Everyone is doing their best to carry on as normal but that is not easy when Russia’s military machine surrounds the borders with a vice-like grip.

The Kremlin says its tanks and battleships are just taking part in exercises; the catastrophic warnings from Western intelligence agencies tell a different and very alarming story.

In the cafes, people are glued to their phones searching news sites for any breakthrough in this crisis.

The diplomacy moves though at a glacial pace and appears be going nowhere.

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Instead, many people are putting their faith in a higher power.

People have been praying for peace at St Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery
People have been praying for peace at St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery

Churches and cathedrals seem busier than normal.

Prayers for peace and calls for unity are growing louder as this crisis moves into dangerous territory.

Outside St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, there is a wall of remembrance with pictures of the fallen.

More than 13,000 people have lost their lives since the conflict erupted in 2014 when Russia occupied Crimea.

In the suburbs, I meet a group of women who are making camouflage nets in their spare time to send to the front.

More than 13,000 people have lost their lives since the conflict erupted in 2014
More than 13,000 people have lost their lives since the conflict erupted in 2014

They know it’s unlikely to make a big difference, but they want to volunteer.

Mariia Ovdiienko, a 21-year-old student, told me she is worried and is hoping for the best – even though she’s “prepared for the worst”.

Elsewhere, others are taking part in training exercises.

About 30 miles outside Kiev, we visit the “Sniper” shooting range where veterans are teaching civilians the basics of warfare, including how to shoot an assault rifle.

Mariia Ovdiienko said she's "prepared for the worst"
Mariia Ovdiienko said she’s “prepared for the worst”

Andrii Biloskurski tells me he thinks a full-scale invasion is unlikely but he wants to learn the skills he might need to defend his family if the worst happens.

He said: “Now when we face this complicated situation on our border and we don’t know about the future steps of our neighbour we have to be ready to act somehow.”

It is of course hard to be ready when you don’t know where things are heading.

There is of course one man who does know, but Vladimir Putin remains inscrutable as he keeps the world guessing and on edge.


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