In Ukraine's capital, a cautious calm

In Ukraine's capital, a cautious calm

KYIV, Ukraine — On a snowy sidewalk in central Kyiv, Liza Zholondevska admitted to feeling anxious about what might lie ahead.

“Honestly? I’m a bit worried,” she told Fox News, in the shadow of the medieval, golden-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 said, with a smile. “Just years of bad news.”

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

But Kyivans acknowledge an underlying tension, with an estimated 100,000 Russian troops deployed close to the Ukrainian border.

Members of Ukraine's 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 been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. 

Members of Ukraine’s 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 been joining Ukraine’s army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion.  (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

“People are trying to concentrate on their day-to-day work,” said Denys Jatsyshyn, a director with the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council.

“But this is a part of life that you cannot just step back and avoid.”

He acknowledged that uncertainty seems to go with the territory.

“When you are bordered with Russia, you should be ready for unpleasant surprises,” he said.

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

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

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

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That is a message the United States is seeking to amplify.

America’s top diplomat in Ukraine, Chargé d’Affaires Kristina Kvien, was at the airport here on Tuesday as another planeload of U.S. security assistance arrived.

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

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, on Friday. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP)

“The losses to Russia will be heavy.”

In the immediate term, the uncertainty is hitting Ukraine’s economy.

Liza Zholondevska, who spoke to us outside the cathedral, said her work as a real estate agent handling foreign clients had dried up.

“It was all good in November and December, and now — I don’t know what to do. I have no work,” she said.

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“Nobody wants to invest in Ukraine now.”

Any invasion is yet to begin, but even the threat is already causing hurt.