Ukraine youth mobilise against 'Russian aggressors' in Crimea

Ukraine youth mobilise against 'Russian aggressors' in Crimea

LVIV, Ukraine - Young men and women in the nationalist heartland of western Ukraine are signing up to defend their country from what they call "Russian aggressors" who have taken over Crimea.

"I'm a high-ranking Judoka and can shoot well," said Tetiana Turtshina as she waited outside her local police station in the pro-European city of Lviv.

The owner of an advertising agency, Turtshina supports the call-up of volunteers that has come ahead of Sunday's referendum in Crimea on joining the Russian Federation, two weeks after pro-Kremlin forces seized the Black Sea peninsula.

"There are many volunteers like me. It's a duty for everyone," said the burly 30-year-old.

"I cannot look on as my country is torn apart," she said, amid growing concern that Ukraine could split after a new West-leaning government in Kiev ousted a pro-Moscow regime which had support in the country's Russian-speaking regions.

In Lviv Russia's President Vladimir Putin is often compared to Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler, and Turtshina fears that the Russians will not stop in Crimea.

"Knowing the appetite of Russia and its methods, they will swallow up Crimea and press on, even beyond Ukraine," she said.

About 2,000 people have registered as volunteers with the police in Lviv.

Among them was Father Makariy, a Christian Orthodox priest who did his military service in the Ukrainian army.

"I would prefer to be a chaplain, of course, as priests do not take up arms. I think that the word can also fight evil," he explained.

In the neighbouring region of Khmelnitsky, Metropolitan Antoniy has said that he himself is ready to take up arms to protect the homeland.

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