“We are defending our country and are on our own territory. Our patience can have an impact on provocations, when we don’t respond to provocations but behave with great dignity,” Zelenskyy said in an appearance with French President Emmanuel Macron.

In the trenches of eastern Ukraine, across the lines from some of the 100,000 Russian troops amassed north and east of the country, Ivan Skuratovskyi’s calm verges on numbness — even after a sniper’s bullet recently killed one of the 50 or so men under his command, AP reports.

It is the sort of thing that has happened from time to time over the eight years he’s been deployed up and down the 250-mile (400-kilometer) front line — a soldier in a war he never imagined when he enlisted in 2013. He grieves, but death and conflict have become an inescapable part of his life.

“The war has put pressure on me and broken my soul,” said Skuratovskyi, 30. “I’m becoming more cold-hearted, some would say dead-hearted. I have a tough sense of humor. It’s a protective reaction to extreme situations.”

U.S. officials say the threat of a Russian invasion in Ukraine is more serious than others that have come and gone during nearly a decade of trench warfare. The White House national security advisor warned that an all-out invasion could happen any day, and President Joe Biden said “it would be wise” for Americans other than essential diplomats to leave Ukraine and ordered the deployment of 1,700 troops to neighboring Poland.

But even as the rhetoric out of Washington ramps up, a sense of calm prevails in the Eastern European nation among soldiers and citizens alike, from relatives of those in the trenches on up to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who campaigned on a promise of ending the drawn-out conflict and has repeatedly called for diplomacy to carry the day.

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