In Lviv, Ukraine, civilians take resistance to Russia into their own hands

On the outskirts of Lviv, Ukraine, a handful of men had the road to their town blocked with heavy machinery and metal barricades. It's part of the civilian-led resistance movement in this western Ukraine city.

They're setting up roadblocks and making molotov cocktails they're calling 'Lviv smoothies'

A local resident in Lviv, Ukraine, makes anti-tank obstacles as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, on March 2, 2022. (Pavlo Palamarchuk/Reuters)

On the outskirts of a picturesque city in western Ukraine known for its rich history and culture, a handful of men have just finished blocking the road with heavy machinery and metal barricades.

On other main roads, volunteers lay down sandbags. 

Downtown, workers cover windows of the Museum of Ethnography and Historic Artifacts with protective metal sheeting, and young volunteers make molotov cocktails. They call them "Lviv smoothies."

Lviv — a tourist hub about 80 kilometres from Ukraine's border with Poland — has not yet been a heavy target of Russia's invasion. This, and its proximity to the border, has made the city a refuge for displaced Ukrainians as Russia escalates its attacks on other major urban areas, including the capital, Kyiv, as well as the strategic port cities of Odesa and Mariupol in the south. 

But as Russia's threat continued to intensify, a resistance in Lviv largely powered by civilians has gathered force.

On the outskirts of Lviv, a group of men block the road with heavy machinery and metal barricades. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

"I am not scared. We are not afraid. We are Ukrainians," said Volodya Mykha from a road outside Lviv.

"We are proud to defend out territory. We are not willing to run.

"We are not attacking. We are defending. That's all"

War's death toll not clear

The overall death toll from the seven-day-old war is not clear. 

On Wednesday, in Kharkiv alone, at least 21 people were killed and 112 injured over the past day, said Oleg Sinehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration. A Russian strike hit the regional police and intelligence headquarters in Ukraine's second-largest city of about 1.5 million people.

The attack came a day after one in Kharkiv's central square that killed at least six people.

The UN refugee agency said late Wednesday that one million people have now fled Ukraine since Russia's invasion last week, the swiftest exodus of refugees this century.

Blockposts, supplies

The military is assisting locals who are building roadblocks, called "blockposts." They help co-ordinate and give information on where and how to build them, focusing on offshoots from the main roads into the city.

The police also send people manning the roadblocks lists of suspect cars and driver's licence plate numbers.

A list of suspect cars and licence plate numbers is posted on a pile of tires piled up, barricading part of a road, on the outskirts of Lviv. People staffing the “blockpost” check cars and drivers before they are allowed through. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

In an old factory bomb shelter, local youth volunteer their time to organize donated water, food, clothing and other supplies to be shipped to hard-hit Kyiv and Kharkiv.

Real estate lawyer Oleg Boianivsky, 28, has been organizing the group, which, he says, has been hard at work for three days, making hundreds of calls, organizing supplies, and driving cars and trucks across Ukraine.

"We will sleep when it's ended," he said.

In an old factory bomb shelter in Lviv, local youth volunteer their time to organize donated water, food and clothing to be shipped to Kyiv and Kharkiv. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

"We are trying to help our people across the country. We asked our friends in Poland to help us. They [brought] us some medicine, food and everything we need."

When asked if he thought war would come to Lviv, Boianivsky said, "War is here. It is everywhere."

WATCH | In Lviv, Ukrainians help the war effort:

Ukrainians helping war effort by making supplies, weapons

1 year ago
Duration 9:38
Anton Pribytkin is a graphic designer and musician from Kyiv. He left his city for Lviv in the west of Ukraine, a city relatively untouched by war but where air-raid sirens still go off every few hours. Residents there make Molotov cocktails and other supplies for front-line soldiers.

Molotov cocktails, or 'Lviv smoothies'

At a roadblock in Lviv there is a collection of empty bottles, presumably ready to be made into molotov cocktails.

Young volunteers have been making the home-made weapons out of donated and recycled beer and alcohol bottles, calling them "Lviv smoothies," or "Bandera Smoothies," named after Stephen Bandera, a polarizing Ukrainian ultra-nationalist who fought against Soviet occupation but was also a Nazi collaborator during the Second World War.

A van load of around 3,000 molotov cocktails destined for Kyiv and Kharkiv were made by approximately 75 volunteers on Sunday.

WATCH | Young Ukrainians use what's on hand to defend cities:

Molotov cocktails and checkpoints: How young Ukrainians are resisting Russia's invasion

1 year ago
Duration 3:16
Young Ukrainians have formed a resistance to Russia's invasion by manufacturing and shipping out Molotov cocktails as well as manning checkpoints in their communities.

'You have to put your energy somewhere'

Back at the blockpost, Ivan Kashey, who works in IT, says he and the other men volunteering here are self-organized.

"It was too hard to watch the news every day non-stop. So we tried to do something. We are patrolling the place," he said.

He's concerned that Russia's invasion of Ukraine could lead to "Soviet Union, 2.0," he said.

"From west to east, everybody's trying to make sure that this won't happen," Kashey said.

Oleg Boianivskyi, 28, and a real estate lawyer in Lviv, is organizing a group of young people to collect food and clothing donations and to store them before delivery to the harder hit areas of Ukraine. (Susan Ormiston/CBC)

He said the overall mood in Lviv is "positive," residents are well protected, and he doesn't think the city itself is in danger. 

But still, Kashey said, they will continue to build barricades, patrol and protect.

"You have to put your energy somewhere, right? So ... put it into barricades," he said.

"I think we're going to want to win this war, right? There's not many options."

Volunteers in Lviv shovel sand into bags, to reinforce the walls of a road block Tuesday (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)


Susan Ormiston

Senior correspondent

Susan Ormiston's career spans more than 25 years reporting from hot spots such as Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, Haiti, Lebanon and South Africa.

With files from CBC's Natalie Stechyson and The Associated Press