DNIPRO, Ukraine — Outside the large military hospital in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, people lined up on Sunday to donate warm clothes and water, while a priest moved among the crowd offering sips of holy wine from a silver chalice and allowing those waiting to kiss the large silver cross he wore on a chain around his neck.
Since the war began three days ago, wounded soldiers have been pouring into the hospital, sometimes as many as 80 at time, largely from the front lines in Ukraine’s east and south near Crimea, said Serhii Bachynskyi, the hospital’s deputy director. The hospital has 400 beds, but the number of wounded has exceeded that at times in the past few days, he added.
Because Russian aircraft control the skies, it is too dangerous to evacuate the wounded on helicopters.
“We’re evacuating with whatever we can; on trains, buses, people are volunteering,” Mr. Bachynskyi said.
Across the street, a group of military medics, who had just arrived with their load of wounded, were smoking and preparing to return to the front lines. They would provide few details about what they were seeing at the front, but said that they were not short of work.
“Either we fight them off or we will all die,” said one of the medics. “We’re hanging on and will do so to the end.”
On Sunday morning, Dnipro was a hive of activity. The city, like many others in Ukraine, is preparing for war. Although Russian soldiers are still some distance away, and the sound of artillery that has become the soundtrack of so many places in Ukraine is not yet audible, the expectation is that the fighting could come at any time.
Mr. Bachynskyi, from the military hospital, said that a group of Russian diversionary troops attempted to parachute into the outskirts of Dnipro on Saturday. One was killed and three were captured, he said, but four were able to escape and were now lurking somewhere in the region.
At all city entrances, groups of men were stacking sand bags and laying tank traps. Soldiers with automatic rifles were questioning motorists and searching cars.
At Rocket Park, an outdoor display of intercontinental ballistic missiles and other rockets produced by the local Yuzhmash factory, men dressed in black or in camouflage were signing up for territorial defense brigades that were being deployed to protect the city perimeter and patrol the center.
There, I met Timofei Khomyak, a musician I knew from a previous visit to Dnipro. Less than a month ago, we were drinking beer at a Bohemian bar on the banks of the Dnieper River. Now, he said, he had handed in his guitar for a rifle: “I’m no longer a musician. I’m a soldier now.”
Nearby, people in civilian clothes were sorting and boxing bottles to be made into firebombs. One man was organizing the others, looking for volunteers to take the bottles elsewhere in the city to be filled with flammable liquid.
They spoke Russian, the language this region of Ukraine tends to prefer. But that does not mean they plan to greet any Russian troops with flowers should they turn up, as Russian officials and propaganda television insist that Ukrainians will do.
“We’re all Ukrainians, and everyone feels that they are Ukrainian,” said Yefrem Korotkov, 25, who had just signed up as a volunteer. “No one is going to let these ethnic Russians to come in here and do anything. They all will die.”
At 15, Bohdan Smolkov is about nine months too young to join the territorial defense forces, so he was trying to help in different ways.
“It’s my duty to help my army,” he said. “Whatever they tell me to do I do. I sort bottles; they called me over to mix Molotov cocktails.”