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No signs of panic in Kyiv streets but many fear chances of peace are slim

Despite several days of firing in eastern Ukraine, residents of Kyiv remained calm and carried on with their lives as normal on Sunday (February 20).

Kyiv residents reflected on Ukraine’s lack of nuclear weapons after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday (February 19) called for a meeting between the Budapest memorandum signatory countries U.S., U.K., Russia and Ukraine.

The Budapest Memorandum on Security assurances was signed in 1994 to assure then newly independent former Soviet republics Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine security in return for handing over their nuclear arsenals to Russia.

Most Kyivans agreed that having a nuclear arsenal would give the country more leverage in the ongoing conflict. “Nuclear weapons are evil but they guaranteed our safety,” said 45-year-old pensioner, Volodymyr.

Nuclear weapons might be Ukraine’s only security guarantee, said teacher Maria Kanarska.

“Considering the neighbours we have, it is too bad we do not have nuclear weapons anymore,” said 53-year-old entrepreneur Viktor Ruban. In 1994, many people believed Russia to be a friend, he added.

While preferring and hoping for a diplomatic solution, 21-year-old student Ira said that if Ukraine could get the nuclear weapons back, it could be a solution for the country.

The focus of tensions in recent days has been on a swathe of eastern Ukraine that Russian-backed rebels seized in 2014, the same year Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. More than 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict in the east.

Incidents of shelling across the line dividing government forces and separatists increased sharply last week, in what the Ukrainian government called a provocation. Kyiv’s Western allies are concerned Russia might use the escalation as a pretext for a wider conflict.

Two Ukrainian soldiers were reported killed and four wounded on Saturday (February 19).

(Production: Ivan Lubysh-Kirdey, Anna Dabrowska, Isabella Ronca)

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