Ukrainian great grandma, 79, prepared to 'defend my home, my children' if Russia invades

A 79-year-old Ukrainian great grandmother has signed up to civilian combat training to prepare to "defend" her family and home in case of a possible Russian invasion.

Valentyna Konstantynovska is one of many civilians who are honing their weapon skills as part of self-defence training as the threat of war with their Russian neighbours looms ahead.

Members of Ukraine's Special Forces unit held military training for residents in Mariupol, in the Donetsk region, on Sunday as world leaders hold last-ditch talks with Vladimir Putin in a bid to cool tensions.

Several of those training the civilians belong to the Azov Battalion, a neo-Nazi group, but who are now integrated into the formal Ukraine military training civilians in first aid and basic weaponry.

The battalion, part of Ukraine's National Guard, is training residents to assemble and dissemble a gun, load ammunition and aim at targets as Russia amassed an estimated 130,000 troops at its border.

Some parents brought their children to the civilian combat training in Mariupol Credit: AP

Ukraine is seeking a direct meeting with Moscow within the next 48 hours, as US intelligence suggests Wednesday is the day Russia may be considering an invasion.

Grandmother Valentyna, from Mariupol, said she's willing to step up in the event of the worst case scenario because she doesn't want to lose her home.

She said: "I'm ready to shoot. If something happens, I will defend my home, my city, my children.

"I will do this because I think I'm ready for it. I don't want to lose my country, my city."

'If something happens, I will defend my home' Credit: AP

People from all walks of life attended the training, with some even bringing their children with them to learn how to load ammunition.

Yelena Piddubna, a local resident, said: "Why have we come with my son? We want to be aware of everything, and I want him to know how to do everything."

Some parents said they wanted their children to be prepared in case of an invasion Credit: AP

The training came as the UK, the US and other Nato allies urged their citizens to flee Ukraine immediately, while civilian airlines reassess whether it is safe to fly into the former Soviet state, with KLM cancelling all flights.

World leaders have warned Russia could invade "immediately" but the Kremlin continues to deny plans of further aggression and dismissed the West's concerns as "hysteria".

But for the people of Mariupol, an industrial port city in the east of the country, living with the possibility of war is not a new worry for them.

They have been living under the shadow of this threat for the past eight years, with conflict simmering a few miles away between the Ukrainian army and Russian-backed separatists.

ITV News visited the frontier city and found ceasefire violations, including drone attacks and sniper fire, are a daily part of life for Mariupol residents.

Correspondent Dan Rivers last week heard from residents of Mariupol and joined Ukraine's patrols in the Sea of Azov, which separates the country from Russia

Elsewhere, 50km outside of the capital Kyiv, ITV News previously spoke to members of the 135th Territorial Force, a group of civilians giving up their Saturdays to prepare for the worst.

One of its members, Hannah Kolesnikova, an IT worker, said "it's important even for girls to protect ourselves, our family".

Denys Prokopenko, a battalion commander for Ukraine's Special Forces unit, explained why Mariupol civilians were compelled to sign up to their combat training.

He said: "We are going through the most dangerous course of action.

"And if Russians [come] to attack and [start] a massive offensive operation to Kyiv, Mariupol, Odessa, somewhere else - our people should be ready."

"Our people should be ready"

Another of the unit's members, Kyrylo Berkal, said there is a "very big danger of invasion" due to "signals" they have received.

He said it was the right call to evacuate the diplomats, because the situation will be "dangerous for them".

However, he added that people shouldn't panic because Ukraine's allies will still help the country.

Mr Berkal said: "My message is we must make more actions to stop Russian invasion together."