Ukraine may be at the center of international anxiety over a possible Russian attack, but in the capital, Kyiv, signs of panic are few.
“Like today, maybe we are [are] somewhat more afraid, but the whole of Ukraine is living normally, “he said Inna Prokopchuck, who is with her husband Vasyl Voronovksy, recently opened a tattoo shop a few blocks from Independence Square.
Notably, the business uses the Canadian Maple Leaf logo and smiling beaver with the words “Great Canadian Ink.”
Prokopchuck said the couple recently returned to Ukraine after living in Edmonton for four years to open a store in Kyiv. Because the Canadian brand is strong here, they made it part of their new business.
The couple began carving tattoos here before Christmas, not long before the Russian military began its massive buildup on Ukraine’s borders.
Western defense officials say Russia now has upwards of 100 full-fledged combat battalions in the border regions, supported by artillery, missile launchers, modern fighter aircraft and a heavy naval presence. in the Black Sea – more than 130,000 troops in total.
‘We live now, now and here’
The Canadian, American and British embassies have already evacuated non-essential personnel from the capital as a precaution.
However, in the tattoo shop, business has been strong, Prokopchuck said.
“Like you do every day [life] – your family, your job, but you must have a little emotion. Some people go to concerts; some people get tattoos, ”he told CBC News during a visit to the store.
“We live now, now and here,” he said. “We must live the way other countries live … however, with awareness and anticipation of a Russian attack.”
That stoicism is rooted in the belief of many-if not most-Ukrainians that the country has been at war with Russia for the better part of eight years. The conflict began with a popular uprising that ousted Russia-backed Viktor Yanukovych in early 2014, sparking separatist unrest in Eastern Ukraine and prompting Putin to seize Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in the south.
The ensuing war between government forces and Russian-backed separatists in the isolated eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk left about 14,000 fighters and civilians dead, according to government estimates. of Ukrainian.
Although Russia says its government has no part in the conflict, Ukraine, its Western allies and some analysts say there is evidence that it supplies weapons, funds and troops to the separatist -controlled region for many years.
Therefore, for many Ukrainians, the current confrontation – while more intense – is a crisis they are used to living with.
Russia is forcing Western countries, NATO and Ukraine to provide so -called security guarantees before it suspends its military forces. It demanded a guarantee that Ukraine would never enter into a military alliance and asked NATO to pledge not to deploy troops to any non -member countries prior to its eastern expansion in 1997.
Those requests have been vehemently rejected by Western leaders, although diplomatic relations are ongoing.
France’s Emmanuel Macron is the latest foreign leader to travel back and forth between Moscow and Kyiv, meeting with Putin on Monday and then with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday.
Macron urged Zelensky to re -commit to the so -called Minsk Accords, an agreement signed in 2015 that lays out the process to end Eastern Ukraine’s separatist war.
The agreements are toxic to Ukrainian leaders, however, as most believe the settlement will allow Russia to establish what the value of puppet states is within the territorial borders of Ukraine.
Instead, on Tuesday, Zelensky urged Putin to stop mobilizing troops on the Ukrainian border and start pulling them back.
“I’m not very confident [Putin’s] words, “he told a news conference in Kyiv.
Tension has an impact on the economy
At the tattoo shop, the CBC met former Ukrainian soldier Iurii Horbachov, who came in for an appointment.
The 37-year-old is a veteran of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and said he refused to change his work because of the possibility of a Russian attack on his country.
“I realize that Russia might want to [us] to have a crisis here in our Ukraine, “he said.
“But no, we’re not scared, and we’re not buying it. People are living their lives, just being alert.”
However, there are fears that Ukraine’s economy, whose GDP fell by four percent last year, could suffer more severe damage from continued uncertainty.
Ukraine also suffers from high unemployment – currently sitting at more than nine percent.
The European Union recently offered 1.2 billion euros ($ 1.7 billion Cdn) in emergency loans to Ukraine to help stabilize its financial system and allow the country to meet its debt payments.
Canada also offered $ 120 million to Ukraine in similar emergency funding.
The President is trying to calm fears
The currency of Ukraine, the Hryvniawhile stable so far, has dropped five percent since Russia’s development began.
Ukraine’s business community is feeling the impact, says Vasyl Mroshnchenko, a Kyiv -based communications consultant who advises international companies affected by the crisis.
“The prospect of Russia’s rise is an ongoing threat that hurts Ukrainian morale, and it hinders investment,” he said.
Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, has dramatically downplayed the threat of a Russian invasion, in part to try to allay the fears of the business community, but Mroshnchenko said the approach was only partially successful.
“There are a lot of companies [that] Considered that expansion has stopped it. Also, nothing new is coming in such situations. “
He said he knew of several international companies that were considering moving out of the capital to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, which is close to the Polish border and considered safer in case Putin decides to take action.
A survey by the European Business Association suggested that 45 per cent of foreign companies indicated that they intended to stay in Ukraine no matter what, 17 per cent could move elsewhere in Ukraine if the capital was attacked and 10 per cent of companies were considered considering the transfer of all. .
Risk IT sector
Ukraine’s important IT sector is considered particularly vulnerable in the event of further fighting with Russia.
More than 4,000 companies contribute approximately seven percent, or $ 3.5 billion US, to Ukraine’s annual gross domestic product.
Mroshnchenko said IT workers are highly mobile, and he fears an exodus in case it escalates.
“[Companies] they will definitely just move to other parts of Ukraine or move them to Poland, where they can copy them and continue working with Western clients from the UK, US, Canada, ”he said.
Voronovksy, the owner of the tattoo shop, said Ukrainians believe part of Russia’s strategy is to weaken the country simply by intimidating people.
That is why so many people are resisting changing their behavior despite the threatening threat, he said.
“Everything is the same as before: people buy cars, fix barbecues, visit each other.”