When Russians began bombing cities across Ukraine, the people of Ukraine were scared and shocked, said Vladimir Koshevoy, who works in the information technology department at Fort Lewis College.
Koshevoy has family in Kharkiv, just 30 miles from the Ukrainian-Russian border, and his wife, Alena Yaremchuk, has friends and family living in the Ukraine capital Kyiv. People in Ukraine are in a panic, Yaremchuk told The Durango Herald on Thursday.
Koshevoy said he and his wife are working on putting together a charity to support Ukrainians with food, medicine and supplies, although it might take two to three days to get the charity organized.
“Everybody is worried sick,” he said. “There are a lot of explosions that are not even on the border with Russia. The airports are being destroyed so people can’t leave the country via airways.”
Gas stations across Ukraine are closed and some people can’t get gas, he said. Some Ukrainians are trying to drive into Europe because it isn’t too long of a drive and Ukraine is more or less a European country, Koshevoy said.
Yaremchuk said she was scared when she heard bombings had begun because her family is in Kyiv. She is working with her friend in Ukraine, who was an Olympic champion figure skater, on opening phone banks to help Ukrainians obtain food and medicine.
Koshevoy said he and his wife don’t know what information to believe because disinformation and misinformation are rampant. Some news reports say Russian forces are close to Kyiv while others say differently.
But Yaremchuk noted cities are being bombed all across the country.
“The situation is really dangerous,” she said.
“Nobody knows what’s going to happen next and where this whole thing is going to go,” Koshevoy said.
The couple learned from Ukrainian news reports that Ukrainian soldiers were able to push back against some Russian attacks, Yaremchuk said, but British intelligence explained in the same reports that soldiers don’t have the capacity to stop bombings in Kyiv.
Ukrainians are still trying to make sense of the attack that began in the dark of night: Are the attacks just a show of power by Russian President Vladimir Putin? Or will the conflict be another dividing force among Ukrainians for years to come?
Koshevoy doesn’t know what happens next. What he does know is that Ukrainians will need a lot of help, he said.
What scares Koshevoy most is that world powers are not abiding by a 1991 agreement between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Ukraine, he said.
“Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty will be supported and protected by the NATO,” he said, summarizing the 1991 agreement. “That was the reason why Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal. That was the condition of the United States and the NATO. So far, they did not fulfill their commitment.”
Yaremchuk said she plans an art exhibition in Durango to raise money for the Ukrainian people.
“And all people in Durango who want (to) help, it’s possible to help and buy some art with Ukraine and help Ukrainian children, Ukraine mothers, Ukrainian people for that,” she said.
She said Ukrainians need moral support. Protests, open dialogue and displays of friendship are needed in Ukraine, she said. She wants to hear Americans’ perspectives on the conflict to let the people of Ukraine know they aren’t alone during a dire situation.
Koshevoy added that Yaremchuk is a former Ukrainian national president of Junior Chamber International, an international nonprofit that helps young people all over the world become active, contributing members of their communities.
He said Yaremchuk has friends and followers all over the world, including in the United States, and she also can work with JCI to help the people of Ukraine. She has 9,480 followers on Facebook.
Some Colorado politicians put out public statements Thursday condemning the attacks.
“Ruthless dictator Vladimir Putin’s Russian military aggression in Ukraine violates the freedoms we uphold in our nation and support around the globe,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement released Thursday.
He said Colorado stands on the side of freedom, and that war, violence and chaos threaten the foundations of the global economy and the United States’ national security.
Polis said he joins others urging Congress to “immediately suspend the federal gas tax and double down on a rapid clean energy transition” to prevent geopolitical conflicts from interfering with the United States’ energy future.
Sen. Michael Bennet in a news release said Putin’s “corrupt and self-serving distortion of history and disregard for international law has upended the post WWII order.”
The senator called Putin’s attack on Ukraine a “violent path” and said it will result in grave consequences for Ukrainians and Russians alike.
“The United States, coordinating with our allies and partners, must punish Putin immediately for his unprovoked aggression,” Bennet said. “We should impose the full weight of economic sanctions right now, explore options to bolster the Ukrainian resistance, and stand resolute in our support of democracy and the rule of law.”