West Midlands Ukrainian representative on the “very concerning” Russia crisis

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been rising since around 100,000 Russian troops were deployed near to Ukraine’s border

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The chairman of one of the West Midlands branches of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain has described the “very concerning” situation facing his family and citizens in the country.

There have been fears that conflict between Russia and Ukraine could be on the horizon as tension continues to grow in the region.

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There are concerns that Russia could attempt to seize Ukrainian territory with US President Joe Biden previously telling his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky there is a “distinct possibility” Russia could make a military move against Ukraine this month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for assurances Ukraine will not be permitted to join the NATO defensive alliance.

Russia has denied any plans to invade Ukraine, although more than 100,000 troops have gathered on the Ukrainian border.

Mario Kosmirak, the Chairman of the Coventry branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB)Mario Kosmirak, the Chairman of the Coventry branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB)
Mario Kosmirak, the Chairman of the Coventry branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB)

Mario Kosmirak is the chairman of the West Midlands branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB).

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Speaking to BirminghamWorld, he described what life has been like for some of his family members in Ukraine.

“I’ve got family, cousins in Ukraine and they are concerned,” he said. “But they can’t really do much so they get on with everyday life, but it’s very concerning for them.

“My cousins are in their 70s, so they grew up under the Soviet system and obviously there was oppression - you weren’t allowed to voice your opinion so it was a very dull existence for them, and in 1991 they got their independence so could experience the West.

“My cousin came over to this country, and we had the opportunity to go over to Ukraine many times.

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“But there is obviously concern now with Russian troops on the border so they are concerned about the future for them.”

Mario, who lives in Coventry, said Ukraine just wants to “get on with its existence”.

He added: “Vladimir Putin has always been very intimidating and doesn’t believe in the sovereignty of Ukraine, and in 1991 it was decided that Ukraine’s sovereignty would be respected, particularly when Ukraine gave up its nuclear weaponry which was on its territory.

“Ukraine is a peaceful county and just wants to get on with its existence and develop its culture and be part of the West with the potential to become a major player in Europe.

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“People just want to get on with their lives and one of the assurances which came from the US, UK and Russia as well was they will respect your sovereignty.

“So on the basis of that Putin has retracted, although he didn’t sign that agreement.”

Mario said that he feels Ukraine is being supported by the West through the crisis.

“It’s been quite reassuring that the West has provided military training for Ukraine’s cause.

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“So we do feel supported and there are the sanctions which Russia are being threatened with, but, nobody wants a war - nobody wants blood shed so the sanctions are there which Moscow would have to face, so that is reassuring and we do feel supported.”

So far Russia has denied any intentions to invade Ukraine.

100,000 troops were placed near the Russia-Ukraine border and officials have asked for confirmation that Ukraine would not be joining the the West’s Nato defensive alliance, adding that if the country were to join the group, it would cause “security threats” for Russia.

Nato currently allows any nation to join its alliance.

Russia has a track record of invading the country, with the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 after Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was deposed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to French President Emmanuel Macron during their meeting in the KremlinRussian President Vladimir Putin listens to French President Emmanuel Macron during their meeting in the Kremlin
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to French President Emmanuel Macron during their meeting in the Kremlin

What has President Putin said about the situation?

The Russian President Vladimir Putin fired a warning to the West, stating that “appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures” could be taken if their “aggressive approach” continues.

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He has also accused NATO of providing Ukrainian forces with weapons.

He said that as a result, Russia forces could not retreat any further than they currently have, adding: “Do they think we’ll just sit idly by?”

President Putin has claimed that the US broke a 1990 guarantee that they would not allow NATO to expand any further East, claiming that the US had “deceived” Russia.

NATO has expanded into central and eastern European since 2004, including four countries - Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia - who share a border with Russia.

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President Putin has also accused the US of stoking tensions between Russia and Ukraine by positioning additional troops in Eastern Europe.

He said: “It seems to me that the United States is not so much concerned about the security of Ukraine... but its main task is to contain Russia’s development.

“In this sense Ukraine itself is just a tool to reach this goal.”

What has the US said about the situation?

On Thursday 20 January, President Joe Biden said: “If any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion.

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“Let there be no doubt at all that, if Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price.”

Today (9 February) Russia’s EU ambassador Vladimir Chizhov told the BBC Russia still believes diplomacy can help de-escalate the crisis.

Chizhov said Moscow had ‘no intention of invading anybody’, but said it was important not to provoke Russia into changing its mind.

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