Business brisk at Kyiv gun shops as Ukrainians rush to buy arms

Ukrainians are buying guns, ammunition and sniper rifles ahead of a possible Russian invasion, with long queues inside weapons stores on Wednesday.

With a state of emergency set to be unveiled, the country’s parliament approved a draft law that gives Ukrainians permission to carry firearms. Previously they were forbidden from leaving home with lethal weapons.

Most Ukrainians – boys and girls – learn how to shoot at school. About 400,000 people are estimated to have combat experience, following Vladimir Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the Moscow-supported armed uprising in the east.

But the threat in recent days of a possible attack on Kyiv has caused an unprecedented rush to buy arms. Gun shops have sold out of some weapons, such as AR-10 and AR-15 assault rifles, with business now exceptionally busy.

“Of course I’m worried about the situation,” Dariia Olexandrivna said, speaking in the basement Praporshyk gun store, in central Kyiv’s Pushkin street. “I’m hoping for the best but preparing for everything.”

Olexandrivna said she and her husband began taking shooting lessons six months ago, when tensions with Moscow grew. They owned two handguns. She had come to buy 400 rubber bullets. “I saw Putin’s speech on Monday. I think he’s stupid enough to do it. He hates Ukrainian people,” she said.

Two weeks ago she packed the car with clothes, medicines, food, water and extra shoes. “My two children speak only Ukrainian. They don’t speak any Russian. If it’s no longer safe for us we will leave,” she said. Where would she go? “The west of the country, somewhere,” she replied.

Over the past 24 hours the Ukrainian government has taken enhanced security measures, having previously downplayed the likelihood of conflict. Restrictions on movement, mass gatherings, political meetings, and concerts and sports matches, are being proposed.

Guns for sale at a Kyiv shop.
Guns for sale at a Kyiv shop. Photograph: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

In a speech on Tuesday, the…

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