Triangle Ukrainian community hoping for peace as tensions escalate between Russia and Ukraine

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As the United States and NATO allies warn of a possible military attack on Ukraine by Russia, the Triangle's Ukrainian community is hoping for peace.

"If there is a full-fledged invasion, you will have massive casualties, millions of refugees, the economy of the country will be destroyed. But everybody I talk to in Ukraine says we are not going anywhere. If push comes to shove, we are going to fight. And if there is a full-fledged invasion, there is going to be a very vicious guerrilla fight," said Oleh Wolowyna, the Vice President of the Ukrainian Association of North Carolina, referring to the disparity in military sizes between Russia and Ukraine

Wolowyna, a native of Ukraine, still has friends and family in the country and visits often. Earlier this month, the Ukrainian Association of North Carolina held a rally in support of Ukraine. According to Wolowyna, there are about 20,000 Ukrainian natives or direct descendants living in the state, with about 4,000 of those living in the Raleigh area, which accounts for the second-biggest concentration in North Carolina.

Russia's military exercises and positioning of both personnel and artillery have sparked international concern during the past several weeks, leading the US to send thousands of troops to Europe, many of which are from Fort Bragg.

In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, a move that Wolowyna described as a significant shift in the relationship between the two countries.

"The effects of that invasion were really, really historical," said Wolowyna, who was in Ukraine during that period.

Though the threat of potential armed conflict looms large, Wolowyna said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has larger plans.

"He will engage, continue to engage in a hybrid war to destabilize the country to make sure it does not become a successful democracy, but there's a larger agenda. He wants to become a superpower again like the Soviet Union," Wolowyna said.

Ukraine's Cyber security agency reported that a cyberattack took down multiple government websites, including those belonging to its Ministry of Defense, Armed Forces, and two state banks.

Russia has continued to deny it has plans to invade, accusing the U.S. of causing mass hysteria, and has stated it has drawn troops back. However, NATO intelligence has disputed the latter claim, stating it has not seen independent evidence of a pullback.
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