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A Ukrainian serviceman walks inside a destroyed house near the frontline village of Krymske, Luhansk region, in eastern Ukraine, on Feb. 19.VADIM GHIRDA/The Associated Press

The upper house of Russia’s parliament has formally given President Vladimir Putin the power to send troops “abroad,” a vaguely worded decree that could open the door for a wider invasion of Ukraine.

Even before Tuesday’s rubber-stamp decision by the Federation Council – which belatedly authorized the deployment of Russian troops to the separatist-controlled Donbas region of Ukraine Monday – Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko told The Globe and Mail that he already considered Russia and Ukraine to be at war.

“I don’t have another word for it” besides war, he said in an interview at his office in Kyiv’s Soviet-era city hall. “If the aggressor’s army comes to Ukrainian territory, what is it? I don’t have another explanation.”

Shortly after the Federation Council vote, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced he was calling up the country’s military reserves, though not yet ordering a general mobilization. He said he still hoped to resolve the crisis either through direct talks with Mr. Putin or a multilateral format.

In a brief news conference after the Federation Council vote, Mr. Putin claimed even he couldn’t predict how Russian forces would be used. “It’s impossible to forecast a specific pattern of action – it will depend on the concrete situation as it takes shape on the ground.”

He said Ukraine could defuse the crisis by recognizing Russian sovereignty over Crimea, which Russia seized and annexed in 2014, and by renouncing its ambition to join NATO. He said Ukraine should also declare itself a neutral state between Russia and the West. Accepting all three demands would be political suicide for Mr. Zelensky.

On Monday, Mr. Putin recognized the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk “people’s republics” – two breakaway areas of Donbas that have been under the control of a Moscow-backed militia since 2014. Fighting in Donbas has killed more than 14,000 people over the past eight years, and Mr. Putin’s decision to send regular Russian forces into the region is expected to inflame the conflict.

Mr. Putin did not specify whether he had recognized the independence of the two separatist republics based on the territory they currently control or whether he supported their claims to the entire Donbas region, roughly two-thirds of which remains under Ukrainian government control.

Tallinn

NATO

RUSSIA POSITIONS

(as of Feb. 18)

Baltic

Sea

Amari

Tapa

Multinational

battle groups

ESTONIA

Ground forces

Air bases

Air policing

mission

Naval bases

Adazi

NATO members

LATVIA

Riga

Non-NATO

Lielvarde

Moscow

Siauliai

LITHUANIA

Rukla

BELARUS

RUS.

Vilnius

Yelnya

Minsk

Malbork

RUSSIA

Orzysz

Asipovicny

Klintsy

POLAND

Pochep

Baranovichi

Marshala

Zhukova

Rechytsa

Brest

Warsaw

Voronezh

Lask

Pripyat River

Soloti

Kyiv

UKRAINE

Boguchar

Claimed by

separatists,

held by Ukraine

Transnistria:

Russian-backed

breakaway region

of Moldova

Luhansk

Volgograd

SLOVAKIA

Held by

pro-Russian

separatists

Donetsk

:

HUNGARY

Dnieper

River

ROMANIA

Persianovskiy

Rostov

Craiova:

NATO multinational

brigade 4,000 troops

Korenovsk

Bucharest

Sevastopol:

Russian Black

Sea Fleet HQ

Crimea:

Annexed by

Russia in 2014

BULG.

Deveselu:

NATO missile

defence system

Black Sea

GEORGIA

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: GRAPHIC NEWS

Tallinn

NATO

RUSSIA POSITIONS

(as of Feb. 18)

Baltic

Sea

Amari

Tapa

Multinational

battle groups

ESTONIA

Ground forces

Air policing

mission

Air bases

Naval bases

Adazi

NATO members

LATVIA

Riga

Non-NATO

Lielvarde

Moscow

Siauliai

LITHUANIA

Rukla

BELARUS

RUS.

Vilnius

Yelnya

Minsk

Malbork

RUSSIA

Orzysz

Asipovicny

Klintsy

POLAND

Pochep

Baranovichi

Marshala

Zhukova

Rechytsa

Brest

Warsaw

Voronezh

Lask

Pripyat River

Soloti

Kyiv

UKRAINE

Boguchar

Claimed by

separatists,

held by Ukraine

Transnistria:

Russian-backed

breakaway region

of Moldova

Luhansk

Volgograd

SLOVAKIA

Held by

pro-Russian

separatists

Donetsk

:

HUNGARY

Dnieper

River

ROMANIA

Persianovskiy

Rostov

Craiova:

NATO multinational

brigade 4,000 troops

Korenovsk

Bucharest

Sevastopol:

Russian Black

Sea Fleet HQ

Crimea:

Annexed by

Russia in 2014

BULG.

Deveselu:

NATO missile

defence system

Black Sea

GEORGIA

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: GRAPHIC NEWS

Tallinn

NATO

RUSSIA POSITIONS

(as of Feb. 18)

Tapa

Baltic

Sea

Amari

Multinational

battle groups

ESTONIA

Ground forces

Air bases

Air policing

mission

Naval bases

Adazi

NATO members

LATVIA

Riga

Non-NATO

Lielvarde

Moscow

Siauliai

LITHUANIA

Rukla

RUS.

Vilnius

Yelnya

BELARUS

Malbork

Minsk

RUSSIA

Orzysz

Asipovicny

Klintsy

POLAND

Pochep

Baranovichi

Marshala

Zhukova

Rechytsa

Brest

Warsaw

Voronezh

Lask

Pripyat River

Soloti

Kyiv

UKRAINE

Boguchar

Claimed by

separatists,

held by Ukraine

Transnistria:

Russian-backed

breakaway region

of Moldova

Luhansk

Volgograd

SLOVAKIA

Held by

pro-Russian

separatists

Donetsk

:

HUNGARY

Dnieper

River

ROMANIA

Persianovskiy

Rostov

Craiova:

NATO multinational

brigade 4,000 troops

Korenovsk

Bucharest

Sevastopol:

Russian Black

Sea Fleet HQ

Crimea:

Annexed by

Russia in 2014

BULG.

Deveselu:

NATO missile

defence system

Black Sea

GEORGIA

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: GRAPHIC NEWS

Mr. Klitschko, a former world boxing champ who hung up his gloves and entered politics after Ukraine’s pro-Western revolution in 2014, said he and his staff were making plans to defend the capital and its 2.8 million residents in case Russia extends its attack on Ukraine.

Western leaders believe Mr. Putin plans to do exactly that.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that “every indication is that Russia is continuing to plan for a full-scale attack of Ukraine.” Both he and U.S. President Joe Biden have said they believe Mr. Putin will make Kyiv the main target.

Mr. Klitschko said Ukrainians must brace for exactly that. “Yesterday, Putin told us that we are not a country, we are not a nation, that we are historically part of the Russian Empire. They clearly told that. They don’t accept Ukraine,” he said, referring to Monday’s speech by Mr. Putin in which he portrayed Ukraine’s independence as an accident of history.

While the defence of Kyiv is the responsibility of the country’s military, Mr. Klitschko said municipal security officers were charged with ensuring the protection of civilian infrastructure such as power stations and the city’s gas and water supplies. The city also maintains a network of some 5,000 shelters that Roman Tkachuk, the head of municipal safety, said could collectively hold the city’s entire population at the same time.

Anti-Putin protests near the Russaian Embassy in Kyiv.ANTON SKYBA/The Globe and Mail

While the shelter network has been criticized as unsuitable – no one seems to know who has the keys to some shelters, while others have been converted into restaurants, bars and even a strip club – Mr. Tkachuk said it would be ready when called upon.

Asked why the city wasn’t taking other obvious steps to prepare for an attack that U.S. officials have said could begin any day, Mr. Tkachuk said it was up to Mr. Zelensky’s national government to declare a state of emergency. “We haven’t yet received 100-per-cent information that there will be an invasion,” he said. “If I put sandbags in the streets and tape the windows, it will almost create panic. If I say, ‘No lights at night,’ people will 100 per cent go crazy.”

Though many Kyiv residents have prepared “go bags” stuffed with essentials should they be forced to flee on short notice, Mr. Klitschko said he and many other residents were ready to defend this ancient city that Mr. Putin referred to in an essay last summer as “the mother of all Russian cities.”

Mr. Klitschko said that while foreign journalists have marvelled at the lack of evident panic in Ukraine as Russia has amassed an invasion-sized force around the country – including tens of thousands of troops stationed in Belarus, just 150 kilometres from Kyiv – he wasn’t surprised by the calm reaction of residents.

“Everything’s quiet, there are no lines. But what is very interesting is with our laws, Ukrainians can buy weapons – and right now whole stores, a lot of stores, where they sell weapons, everything is empty. You can’t buy one single [bullet]. What does it mean? That people don’t want to leave. That people defend their houses and defend their cities. It’s the mood of the people,” Mr. Klitschko said.

His younger brother Wladimir, who also won international boxing titles, had already joined the country’s reservist Territorial Defence Forces. Despite his day job, the mayor said he too was “ready to fight and defend my city, as are thousands of citizens of Kyiv.”

Asked if he himself had a gun, Mr. Klitschko smiled and referred to his time as a teenage conscript in the Soviet army, when Ukraine and Russia were both part of the USSR. “I know weapons,” he said.

While most people in Kyiv remained outwardly relaxed Tuesday – with many taking advantage of an unseasonably warm day to stroll the city’s parks and boulevards – there were yet more troubling omens throughout the day. Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that evening that it was evacuating staff from its embassy in Kyiv “to protect their lives and safety.”

Even before the official announcement, it looked like the Russian embassy was empty, with no signs of activity inside as a crowd of several hundred Ukrainians gathered outside to protest Mr. Putin’s moves in Donetsk and Lugansk.

The demonstrators carried handmade signs reading “Stop Putin” and “The empire must die” and played songs laced with expletives about the Russian leader. But the crowd was otherwise muted, and the protesters were outnumbered by police guarding the embassy. The mood was more fearful than furious.

“My country is in true danger. War is even closer than it was one year ago or eight years ago,” said Angelia Kavlich, a 20-year-old law student who stood in front of the embassy with a Ukrainian flag draped around her shoulders. She said she was planning to stay in the city no matter what happened next and was taking tactical first-aid classes – “so at least I can do something for the soldiers of our country.”

Angelina Kavlich, 20, missed her law class to protest near the Russian embassy in Kyiv.ANTON SKYBA/The Globe and Mail

Alexander Soloviev, a 62-year-old radio engineer, arrived at the demonstration in combat fatigues. “I’m too old for conscription, but I believe that when the war starts, I will go to the army and they will take me,” he said. “War is already here. People are dying and will continue to die.”

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