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Ukrainian-Minnesotans Watch From Afar As Tensions Rise Back Home

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Many Minnesotans are watching closely what the United States decides to do as tensions rise between Russia and Ukraine. There are an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Minnesotans that have ties to Ukraine.

The Pentagon says Russia is building up its forces along its border with Ukraine and Belarus. If NATO asks for help, 8,500 U.S. troops are on "heightened alert" to deploy.

Russia has built up troops along Ukraine's border of Ukraine in the recent past, but Stefan Iwaskewycz, a Ukrainian-American in Minneapolis, says this time feels different.

"What's happening now that is alarming ... is that it seems like Russia's also putting into place other ancillary necessities if you were actually going to invade," Iwaskewycz said.

He has family in Ukraine, and he's lived there. The question of whether Russia will invade is an urgent one at the Ukrainian American Community Center in northeast Minneapolis, where Iwaskewycz spends time.

Russian troops near Ukraine border
(credit: CBS)

"When it's a question of protecting democratic and human rights in another country, well, if it's happening in Ukraine then it has special meaning to me," he said. "Ukrainians have been struggling for their independence and right to exist as a people and as a nation for centuries."

Secretary of State Tony Blinken says Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn't believe Ukraine has a right to exist as a country. President Joe Biden is considering sending thousands of troops as part of NATO's response to the buildup.

"We've never ruled out the option of providing additional assistance in advance of an invasion," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. "Those discussions have been ongoing."

Iwaskewycz would like to see the U.S. intervene in the event of an invasion.

"Without that kind of support, it's gonna be that much more bloody for Ukrainians," he said. "We would hope that with a strong show of force it would deter what Russia's trying to do."

The Department of Homeland Security is warning that Russia could carry out a cyberattack against the U.S. if it feels threatened by an American response.

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