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Ukrainians are used to curfews

Europenight Trauma surgeon Mykola Zhupaniuk was jogging around his home in suburban Kiev last summer, his usual way of escaping the stress of working in a wartime hospital, when he heard someone yell “Stop, I’m going to shoot!” The first thought was that luckily only one of his earbuds was working, so he could hear the commands. His second was an alarm. He forgot the time and it was past curfew time. He stopped, raised his hands, and turned to see three Home Guard soldiers pointing guns at him.

Martial law was imposed at the outset of the Russian invasion and curfews were imposed in cities across Ukraine. A year later, they are still a fact of life. In cities that are no longer on the front lines, such as Kiev and Odessa, the number of checkpoints has been reduced and curfews have been postponed. Most areas now start at 11pm instead of 8pm; recently Kiev relaxed until midnight. But the streets are still patrolled at night by police and the Homeland Guard, who have powers to stop pedestrians, check documents and search phones. Violators can be prosecuted and fined (proportional to income) and up to 15 days in prison. Some of the youths arrested during the night have been sent to military registration centres.

It is unclear how many cases have been prosecuted. Oleksiy Biloshytskiy, deputy chief of the Patrol Police Department, said that if people had a good reason to go out, “the police are willing to stop halfway.” Dr. Zhupaniuk used a different argument: He recognized a soldier who had done construction work for him, and he asked Said: “If you shoot me now, who will hire you to build the fence?” The man smiled, confirmed his identity, and sent him home.

Curfew breakers agree enforcement is flexible.A woman is stopped at a checkpoint after she lost track of time while making out with her partner non-governmental organization volunteer. The guards laughed at the soda on the car window and let her go (after calling a police acquaintance who testified for her, mortified). When Dmytro Zinoviev was asked where he was going at a highway checkpoint at 4 a.m., he replied, “Antarctica!” The police thought he was drunk until he showed Documents show he needed to catch a plane in Hungary to join Ukrainian researchers at Vernadsky’s research base. They gave him a unit badge; he later sent them a photo of the badge next to a penguin colony.

Those with few exemptions from the curfew include accredited journalists, humanitarian volunteers, members of the military, some designated taxi drivers and those with early train tickets. People are used to going home early. Shift workers such as doctors and nurses often remain in their workplaces. Dr Zhupaniuk said some colleagues stopped coming home after unsympathetic police forced them to sleep in their cars at checkpoints.

As Russian troops approached Kiev, a days-long curfew was imposed to drive out the vandals. That threat has diminished, but Mr Biloshytskiy said the nighttime curfew would also deter vandalism. They also seem to help maintain law and order. According to Mr. Biloshytskiy, crime in Ukraine has dropped by 25% in the past year.

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