Gorham and Westbrook residents with connections to Ukraine and Russia weighed in this week amid mounting fears of war between the two countries.
Reports say Russia has amassed 100,000 troops at the border with Ukraine and is seeking assurance that the former Soviet republic will not join the NATO defense alliance. Ukraine has looked to strengthen its Western European ties since it gained its independence in 1991.
“Ukraine would have a hard time standing up to Russia,” said Gorham resident Dwayne St. Ours, whose wife, Irina, has relatives in Ukraine.
When the couple traveled to Ukraine last October to adopt an orphaned boy, Russian troops were already massing near the border, he said.
“We’re hoping and praying nothing happens,” St. Ours said this week. “It’s a war of words right now.”
The St. Ours, members of the First Russian Baptist Church in Gorham, have six children, including two adopted from Ukraine and two adopted from Belarus.
Gorham resident Dean Street has friends in Kharkov in Eastern Ukraine just 40 miles from the Russian border and has visited the area.
“I think there’s psychological warfare going on,” Street said Tuesday.
The situation is escalating “as far as posturing goes,” he said.
Street this week shared a portion of a Jan. 3 email he received from one of his friends in Kharkov.
“Thank you very much for your prayers because it’s such a support for all of us and the country as a whole,” the friend wrote. “The situation is getting harder as our eastern neighbor announced a kind of an ultimatum once again, and our authorities announced the decision to start the program of territorial defense.
“All people of the enrolled professions (including women) up to 60 years of age should be registered at induction stations and should come to the place when called. Therefore, all people are very nervous,” the email said.
St. Ours agreed. He said Ukrainian “people are definitely feeling nervous.”
“Ukraine doesn’t want a war with anybody,” he said.
But, Dan Glover of Westbrook, a member of the Greater Portland-Archangel, Russia, sister city group, believes Russia doesn’t want war with Ukraine. He said he doesn’t understand the United States’ decision to send weapons to Ukraine.
“Russia has said repeatedly that it has zero intentions to invade the Ukraine,” Glover said. “We should accept the fact that Russia says it will not invade the Ukraine unless they are attacked.”
Russian people don’t want war, he said, and sent the American Journal pointing he received Tuesday, Feb. 1, from a friend, Inna, in Archangel.
“I am writing to you about the question of the war. We pray that this won’t happen. Nobody from this region and Russian citizens wants to start the war,” an except from the message said.
The U.S. State Department issued a no-travel to Ukraine advisory Jan. 28.
“The security situation in Ukraine continues to be unpredictable due to the increased threats of Russian military action and can deteriorate with little notice,” said the posting on the department’s website.