Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – His two young boys at school and his wife at work, Alex Kozyr sits in his comfortable apartment decorated with mementos of his native Ukraine and relaxes.
Or tries to.
Kozyr’s parents still live in the village of 700 in central Ukraine where he grew up. And his cousin is in the Ukrainian defense forces on the “line of contact,” opposite the Russian border where President Vladimir Putin is massing a force of 175,000 troops with armored vehicles, according to reports based on U.S. intelligence, for a possible invasion.
Kozyr talks to his parents via FaceTime or Skype three or four times a week.
“They are very worried,” he said, in an interview earlier this month. “They are worried that everything is going to get destroyed, people are going to get killed.”
“They pretty much expect the attack. I think it’s unavoidable.”
While much of the world has been preoccupied with the withdrawal of Western forces from the war in Afghanistan, news reports say the conflict between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces has claimed more than 14,000 lives since 2014, when Putin annexed the Ukrainian region of the Crimean Peninsula. Kozyr thinks the number of casualties is “much higher, much higher on both sides for Ukraine and Russia.”
The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven, the world’s largest democracies, recently warned Russia of “massive consequences” of an invasion during a meeting in Liverpool, England. That followed a similar warning last week from President Joe Biden of severe economic sanctions against Russia should they invade, although Biden ruled out the possibility of U.S. troop involvement.
Under the Trump administration the U.S. supplied Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank missiles, and another supply was sent by the Biden administration in October, the New York Times reported. None has been fired yet on the battlefield. Russia opposes the missiles’ deployment and has practiced defenses against similar missiles, the newspaper reported.
Wearing a “Roadkill” YouTube TV show T-shirt, Kozyr, 39, who works as an auto mechanic, showed a reporter a photo of Ukrainian wheat fields as he contemplated the future of his homeland.
“If Russia is going to attack, there’s going to be so many unnecessary deaths of just regular people, like families, and eventually they are just going to absorb us into their country like it happened a few times over the history,” he said.
Ukraine was an independent nation from 1918 to 1920 before becoming one of the founding members of the Soviet Union. It ultimately gained independence in 1990.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told Politico National Security Daily any invasion would be “a disaster” for both countries.
Kozyr said any invasion by Russia would have immediate consequences for his family.
“If anything happens there, my niece’s husband is going to go to war,” Kozyr said. “He’s going to have to and my cousin is in the military so he’s at immediate risk and that’s about all the men we have in our family.”
But his parents are holding out hope.
“They still hope somebody is going to help Ukraine and talk Putin from doing this, but it’s just hopes,” he said. “They still hope it’s going to be OK.
“They don’t tell me that much either, they don’t want me to be worried too much.”
The unpredictable Russian president is the wild card in the scenario.
“The Russian president wouldn’t listen to any reason. I think he has just set his mind on it,” Kozyr said.
Kozyr’s wife Liliya, a nurse, is originally from Russia.
“We learned to not talk politics because it always involves Russia and Ukraine in some conflict. We don’t even bring it up,” said Kozyr. “It’s not Russia, it’s the Russian president. The Russian people are genuinely good people. I really like them.
“It used to be so peaceful in my country but not anymore. … I wish there was a solution.”