KIEV, Ukraine (USA TODAY) – Ukrainians, fearing Russian incursions, signed up for a new national guard as more Ukrainian bases were taken by pro-Russian forces in Crimea.
Others didn't know what to make of militias forming around the country.
"Forming a national guard seems like a good idea, but I don't see enough information about what it is and what exactly it will do," said Oksana Matviyenko, a retiree from Kiev. "But of course, it is a good way to use all the young men with patriotic and militaristic moods who rose up during the protest."
European Union leaders said Thursday they will hit more people with a travel ban and asset freeze, closing in on President Vladimir Putin's inner circle to punish him in the escalating crisis over the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula. They announced plans to scrap an EU-Russia summit in June.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU leaders would prepare stronger measures that may include economic sanctions and an arms embargo.
"We need to prepare to take further steps, and we need to do it together," Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said. "A strong Europe is the last thing that Putin wants. He wants to split us up."
The Ukrainian government has been pulling in former and current troops and volunteers from the demonstrations in Independence Square for a more pro-European stance.
Vitaly Chernetsky, a University of Kansas professor and president of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies, said the challenging task of mobilizing a population to stand up against Russian aggression has seen a lot of affirmation.
"There have been a lot of volunteers signing up in all the regions of Ukraine, both in the western part of the country, which is much more overwhelmingly for the integration with Europe," Chernetsky said, "but also in the center and the southeast. This is a widespread phenomenon that spans Ukraine as a whole."
In Brussels on Thursday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Ukraine is ready to react militarily to Russian aggression, according to UNIAN news agency.
"I hope and have always been hoping for a peaceful solution," Yatsenyuk said, "but I want to officially warn Russia that an attempt to occupy Ukraine, cross the border and annex the eastern regions will get the most harsh reaction — including military reaction."
Chernetsky said members of the country's economic elite are joining rank-and-file citizens and government troops to defend Ukraine.
Igor Kolomoysky, the appointed governor of Dnepropetrovsk, a major industrial city in eastern Ukraine, helped the army with fuel supplies. A brother of Serhiy Taruta, the governor of Donetsk, a city in southeastern Ukraine, built a large trench on the border as a way to stop tanks from Russia.
"There is a lot of goodwill right now and a lot of effort, including from the so-called oligarchs," Chernetsky said.
Though many were pleased to see the West imposing some sanctions, most said the reaction was too tepid.
"I think many Ukrainians expected more from Obama," said Maryna Fedorenko, 26, in Kiev. "We are still waiting and hoping to see a stronger reaction from the West."
Fedorenko and other Ukrainians say they count on the West to keep Putin in check.
"Putin is dangerous for the world, not just for Ukraine," she said. "And someone needs to show him his place."