In the Ukrainian capital, a cautious calm

KYIV, Ukraine — On a snowy sidewalk in central Kyiv, Liza Zholondevska admitted to worrying about what might be in store for her.

“Honestly? I’m a little worried,” she told Fox News from the shadow of the medieval, gold-domed St. Sophia’s Cathedral.

But, she added, instability is nothing new here.

“Since 2014 [when Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea], nothing has changed,” she says, with a smile. “Just years of bad news.

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The mood in Kiev is calm: bars and restaurants are packed and there are no signs of panic buying in stores. It can sometimes feel like it is the distant Western governments that are most concerned about a possible attack, rather than the citizens who would feel the full force of it.

But Kyivans recognize an underlying tension, with around 100,000 Russian troops deployed near the Ukrainian border.

Members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have joined army reserves Ukraine in recent weeks amid fears of a Russian invasion.
(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

“People are trying to focus on their daily work,” said Denys Jatsyshyn, director of the U.S.-Ukrainian Business Council.

“But it’s a part of life that you can’t just step back and avoid.”

He acknowledged that uncertainty seems to go with the territory.

“When you cross the border with Russia, you have to expect unpleasant surprises,” he said.

But he added that Ukrainians are “ready to fight”, having witnessed eight years of bitter war with Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country.

Vladimir President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, January 25, 2022.

Vladimir President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, January 25, 2022.
(Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

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This is a message that the United States seeks to amplify.

The top US diplomat in Ukraine, Charge d’Affaires Kristina Kvien, was at the airport here on Tuesday as another plane loaded with US security aid arrived.

“Russian soldiers sent to Ukraine at the request of the Kremlin will face fierce resistance,” she said.

On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy answers questions from the media in Kyiv, Ukraine.

On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy answers questions from the media in Kyiv, Ukraine.
(Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP)

“The losses for Russia will be heavy.”

In the immediate future, uncertainty hits the Ukrainian economy.

Liza Zholondevska, who spoke to us outside the cathedral, said her job as an estate agent dealing with foreign clients had dried up.

“Everything was fine in November and December, and now I don’t know what to do. I don’t have a job,” she said.

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“Nobody wants to invest in Ukraine now.”

Any invasion has not yet begun, but even the threat is already hurting.

Christi C. Elwood