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Ukrainians in Utah share concerns in conflict with Russia

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DRAPER — A Draper woman is monitoring the situation in Ukraine closely by constant Internet communication with family and friends living in Kiev. While Anna Medley's family and friends are hundreds of miles from the unrest in Crimea, they are deeply committed to doing all they can to help maintain Ukraine's independence.

For some Utahns the situation in Ukraine seems like a world away. But for Medley, the threat of war in her homeland is too close.

It's been 12 years since Anna Medley left her hometown of Kiev and came to study in Utah. And as news erupted last week over ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, Medley has been in constant communication with her family and friends.

"Russia took the opportunity of (Kiev's) interim government," Medley said. "And the situation (in Ukraine) being quite volatile, to start aggression against Ukraine."

Her only sibling, a brother, and her university classmates felt rumblings of trouble in the country begin months ago. She described the mood and scene there in the last few months.

"Laws prohibited people from gathering in public places," said Medley. "Basically laws turned Ukraine into police state."

Medley said her brother and friends participated and even financially supported recent protests in Maidan, the central square in Kiev.

"My friends and my acquaintances, they were part of the protests. They lived and worked on Maidan," she said. "And they defended their neighborhoods from government sponsored provocateurs."

Medley explained how families and community groups from Kiev and all over Ukraine mobilized to support protestors who were camped out in the square daily.

"They were bringing food, blankets, supplies," Medley said. "They were cooking, there were mobile kitchens and medics when fighting broke out."

This is definitely invasion. This invasion, they're trying to base it on facts, which are not confirmed.

–Nataliya Zavada, Ukrainian software professional

As Russian troops have moved into the Crimean peninsula, Medley said she fears history will repeat itself in the region.

"It's no different than when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslavakia or Hungary or in Georgia in 2008," Medley said. "They're using the same tools they used back then."

At this point, Medley said she's concerned about the safety of her family and friends should Russia declare war on Ukraine.

"People are willing to fight for their freedom because they say ‘We may not get another chance,' " said Medley.

As tensions mount on the Crimean peninsula, a team of Ukrainian computer software professionals working more than 5,000 miles away in Salt Lake City anxiously awaits news from home and contact with friends and family.

"Just as a citizen, I'm just concerned this is happening. It is a very unpleasant thing. I'm really worrying about our people, their families and Ukraine as a country. I would like to have this conflict — and it will and should be — resolved in a peaceful manner," said Svitlana Tertula, a project manager who works for SoftServe, which is based in Ukraine.

SoftServe is a Deseret Digital Media contractor. DDM and KSL are both owned by Deseret Management Corp. Tertula said her comments and those of her colleagues represent their own opinions, not that of the company.

Ukraine has been in chaos since President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted on Feb. 22, after bloody anti-government protests left dozens dead and hundreds wounded. The demonstrations started last November after Yanukovych rejected a deal with the European Union, favoring closer ties with Moscow.

Over the weekend, Russia's upper house of Parliament voted unanimously to send military forces into Ukraine. At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Monday, Russia's envoy said his country's aim in Ukraine is to stop radical extremists who are destabilizing the country, CNN reported.

The United States is mulling a series of economic and diplomatic steps to isolate Russia, according to CNN.

Nataliya Zavada, who works in quality control for SoftServe, said Russia's encroachment "is a tragedy for us Ukrainians."

"This is definitely invasion. This invasion, they’re trying to base it on facts, which are not confirmed. From our point, this is serious situation. We definitely do not see the reason to do such,” Zavada said.

Diplomatic measures would be a better course, she said.

Taras Andrusiak, a software developer for SoftServe, said he, too, views Russia's actions as an invasion.

"(Vladimir) Putin wants to divide Ukraine. First he wants Crimea. After that, maybe he might want to get other parts, the east and south of Ukraine," he said.

Zavada said their company has employees from throughout Ukraine. While many people who live in Crimea are ethnic Russians and are philosophically aligned with Russia, others prefer Ukrainian independence.

Recent media reports suggest all people from Crimea "want this invasion and they support Putin. This is not true. This not the thought of the whole peninsula. They do not agree with such events," Zavada said.

The Ukrainian team is scheduled to work in Salt Lake City for a week, "then we come back home and hope everything is good in our country until that," Tertula said.

She and Zavada live in Lviv, which is in western Ukraine, about 45 miles from Poland.

Since learning en route to Utah that Russia had encroached on Crimea, the Ukrainian workers have been reading news on the Internet and watching television news reports "to find out what is the situation in Ukraine," Andrusiak said.

Being away from home while Ukraine is involved in conflict is very hard, Zavada said.

"We are worrying every hour. Every hour the situation may change dramatically. It's really hard to be so long distance from there," she said.


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