Local Ukrainians devastated over Russia's latest move calling it an 'invasion'

Several people in Washington with ties to Ukraine are watching what's happening in Eastern Europe closely and with concern.

"[It's] disheartening, devastating," said Lidia Mykytyn, a Seattle woman with family members in Ukraine. 

Mykytyn spent almost a year doing humanitarian work in a country now threatened by a potential full-scale attack by Russia.

"This is incredibly frightening this is an invasion," Myktyn said.

Mykytyn is with the Ukrainian Association of Washington now calling on Congressional leaders to impose severe sanctions against Russia.

President Joe Biden imposed strict sanctions, essentially cutting off Western financing to the country. 

"Right now, the world is watching," Mykytn said.

Even if you don’t have personal ties to Eastern Europe, experts say all Americans should care. 

It will have direct impacts on the stock market, supply chain, oil prices and the list doesn’t end there.

"The extension of a war and possible miscalculation that could lead to wider war that actually threatens a potential nuclear war, that is a disaster for everyone that worries me," former UW Professor Dan Chirot said.

RELATED:  Explainer: Has Russia 'invaded' Ukraine?

Chirot, who is an expert on Russia and Eurasian studies, says that is his biggest concern right now.

The U.S. is calling Russia’s take over of Ukraine’s Donbass region an invasion.

The area of Eastern Ukraine is controlled by Russian-backed separatists and could open the gate to all of Ukraine and beyond.

"For Putin, the collapse of the Soviet Union was a disaster. He’s trying to reclaim at least some of this," Chirot said.  

Chirot said from Russia’s perspective, Ukraine was never independent, despite the long history pointing otherwise.

"Ukraine has long sought independence and it deserves it now," Chirot said.

"Ukraine is the buffer between Russia and Europe, and with that buffer gone, that instability in Europe rises significantly," Mykytyn said.

If Russia is not stopped now, Chirot says it will signal to Russia and other US adversaries that they can get away with a lot more. Putin has made it clear he wants NATO to pull out of Eastern Europe.  

Chirot, who was born in the 40s, during the tail end of World War II, says back then, the US realized they could not be an isolationist, a popular opinion in late 1930s.

"If we are shown to not support our natural allies, then we are on our own and the world will close in on us. That was true in the 1940s and it’s even truer today," Chirot said.

Marta Tomakhiv is a former University of Washington Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant. She spent the 2020-21 academic year in Washington State, then returned home to Kyiv, Ukraine. She recently attended a peaceful demonstration in solidarity against Putin in Kyiv and agrees that tougher sanctions are necessary.

"I do think that sanctions should be more serious. They should be more immediate because this is the only language that Russia, I think, understands," said Tomakhiv.

As a precaution, Tomakhiv said she has an emergency bag ready with her documents and most valuable possessions, but she and many others are more concerned over how they can fight for their country.

"The most concern for all of us is what role can we play in that situation, what role can you play when the war starts," said Tomakhiv. "It’s a lot about how can we help personally. How can each of us add to the fight to combat this Russian invasion and actually win."

To show your support for Ukraine, Tomakhiv is asking people to reach out to the Washington Congressional Delegation and the White House for tougher sanctions against Russia.

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