Families in the heart of Ukraine’s capital are preparing for the worst. They don’t know what the future will bring now that Russian forces have taken control of Eastern Crimea and several military installations. And they embody a wealth of emotions: anger at the West, fear of what’s to come, and still a resolve to hold fast against a Russian takeover. It’s all as one U.S. official warns, “not everything is what it seems.”
“Soon everyone will realize that guarantees from the U.S. and Great Britain are worth nothing… .”
“It’s a very frightening situation,” said Daria, the wife of famous Ukrainian artist and sculptor Mykola Zhruvel, in a Skype video interview with TheBlaze as her young son played in the background with other children from her neighborhood who were visiting.
“We are monitoring everything closely. No one knows what will happen but we are very discouraged.”
She leaned into her laptop camera and added in a whisper: “My son doesn’t even understand what is happening, he doesn’t even understand we’re on the brink of war.”
Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Borys Gudziak, who delivered the liturgy on Sunday, told TheBlaze after the church service that Ukraine will stand for her sovereignty against Russian occupation but he hopes the situation is resolved peacefully.
The Cathedral (Sobor) of the Resurrection, on the west bank of the Dnipro River, was filled with parishioners praying for resolution to the crisis, he said. He wanted to remind the world that, “this invasion is an outcome of fear [and a] sense of inadequacy and crazy ambition” on the part of Russia, and it’s up to the West to stand by the side of the Ukrainian people.
On March 19, TheBlaze TV’s For The Record ( 8 p.m. EST) will air a special episode and take viewers deep into the heart of Ukrainian crisis with exclusive video and footage.
“Putin will stage some large-scale or multiple act(s) of violence and blame it on us”
On the other side of the city, Dmytro and Maria Lysak — who are one month away from having their first child — said during another Skype interview that they feel like the situation is unraveling so quickly they won’t have time to prepare if Russia moves its troops into the western part of the country. But they’re ready for the worst scenario.
“We are waiting for huge provocations,” said Dmytro, who works as a translator and is an educated historian. “Putin will stage some large-scale or multiple act(s) of violence and blame it on us.”
“In fact this is happening already,” he added. “I believe it happened in Kharkiv; but the most vicious things will happen in Crimea. … As I predicted, the Western nations sold us out to Putin – they chose shame over war, because politicians always do. That’s their job. Soon everyone will realize that guarantees from the U.S. and Great Britain are worth nothing and hell will break loose.”
In Kharkiv, the city Dmytro referenced, dozens of people were hurt in violent clashes when reportedly pro-Russia activists overran the regional government’s headquarters protesting against Ukraine’s new interim government. According to Ukrainian officials and citizens, there are concerns that Russian officials are orchestrating the angry crowds by bringing in pro-Russian demonstrators, a tactic they have been known to do in the past.
Last week, after months of protests, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian opposition members ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, a close ally of Putin, who is now accused of war crimes and leaving his nation broke after taking an estimated $12 billion from the poverty-stricken nation.
The pro-Russian protestors, however, denounced Ukraine’s newly installed government and called for reunification with Russia, news reports from the region said. It was also reported that the Russian flag was raised over the government building in the city.
“The tension in the streets is so strong that people don’t even need to speak to each other to feel it,” said Dmytro, who added that his pharmacist commended him for his bravery: He wears the colors of the national flag openly on his sleeve. Riot police had been arresting or beating people for the same thing just weeks earlier, he said.
Now police and security forces are barely in the streets, he explained. “They don’t feel comfortable in the public.”
That’s because, during the height of the protests in February, hundreds were injured and more than 70 killed by riot police and snipers.
“Not everything is what it seems”
The nation is rapidly “being ripped at the seams and this is being orchestrated by Russian President Vladimir Putin,” a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the region told TheBlaze. The official spoke on condition that they not be named due to the nature of their work. “We are certain that Russian intelligence officials are operating in various parts of the West as well, and there is little doubt that they won’t do what it takes to make events play out in their favor. Not everything is what it seems.”
Putin dismissed warnings this past week from the United States and Europe that military intervention would not be tolerated. It didn’t stop Moscow from deploying forces into Crimea over the weekend. Some news reports estimate that possibly up to 6,000 Russian troops are already in the country. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the move by Moscow “the Russian Federation’s invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territory.” Some saw Kerry’s statement as an escalation in the crisis.
“We will fight for our right to exist and that is much stronger than his need to control”
Ukrainian families that spoke with TheBlaze said it was difficult to reach anyone in Crimea as communication had been cut to most of the region at particular times throughout the weekend. Armed Russian-speaking forces reportedly wearing military uniforms without insignia’s were patrolling key infrastructure sites in the area and have a military stand-off with Ukraine’s infantry base in Privolnoye, in the East.
Mykola, who also spoke with TheBlaze last month and has been active in the opposition movement, said he is considering the option of leaving the country for the protection of his children. Families are stockpiling water and food supplies in the event of war, his neighbors told TheBlaze.
The Zhruvel’s live above Kieve’s Maidan, Independence Square, where opposition protestors have been gathering since November.
“People are very afraid that what happened in Georgia will happen here,” said Mykola, referring to another of Russia’s former Soviet satellites, Georgia, that was forced to split its territories in 2008, when Russia rolled its military into Abkhazia and South Ossetia despite a cease fire agreement.
“We take what Putin says seriously,” Mykola added. “There is no doubt he means what he says and its the people who will suffer because of this. We are Ukrainians, not Russians.”
Dmytro said even the “politicians are afraid to confront Putin” in Ukraine.
“Some might be scared, some might be corrupted, some might have an illusion of control over (Puntin’s) actions,” he said. “But the people are not afraid. We will not be run from our country. They can occupy our land but how long can they hold it? Not forever. And even if some of us die at his hands the people will not cave in — we will stand up to him. We will fight for our right to exist and that is much stronger than his need to control.”
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