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Treasure Valley Ukrainian man reacts to Russian conflict

Alex Zayshlyy of Nampa has family still in Ukraine. He said tensions between Russia and Ukraine are nothing new.

NAMPA, Idaho — Fears continue as tensions between Russia and Ukraine continue to escalate with Russian President Vladimir Putin announcing a "special military operation" in Ukraine Wednesday. For some people in the Treasure Valley, those fears hit close to home.

"Every day I get to hear a little bit about how [my family in Ukraine] is doing," said Alex Zayshlyy of Nampa.

Zayshlyy has lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years. He moved from Ukraine to the State of Washington in February of 1999 with his family when he was seven years old. He told KTVB his parent's decision to move was because they wanted more opportunities for their children.

He met his wife, who is also from Ukraine, in Washington and moved to Idaho about three years ago. 

Both he and his wife still have family in their home country of Ukraine. Zayshlyy said he has an aunt that lives in Kyiv, the Capitol of Ukraine, and an aunt and uncle who live in Rivne, which is in the western part of the country.

"My wife, her family, they all live on the east side of Ukraine, right outside of Donetsk, where all of this is going on," Zayshlyy said. "Over the last couple of years, their home has now been under occupation of separatist region, where Russia is moving their troops into."

"For my wife and her parents, that's where they lived their whole life. It really hits close to home."

For Zayshlyy, he said it isn't all too surprising to hear about what's been going on between the countries.

"There's been a lot of tensions going on there for many, many years," Zayshlyy said. "This is just another part of that boiling up to the top."

The conflict between Ukraine and Russia can be traced back decades. However armed tensions that the countries have seen recently began in 2014, according to University of Idaho Political Science Associate Professor Florian Justwan.

"We had something called the 'Euromaidan Revolution' in which Ukrainian people ousted and got rid of a pro-Russian government in favor of a pro-European government essentially," Justwan said.

It was followed by Russia annexing Crimea and encouraging conflict in the eastern part of Ukraine said Justwan.

"What's happening right now is perhaps the beginning of a larger conflict, which Russia is not only encouraging military conflict in some parts of the country but a lot of observers are worried that we are worried we are on the eve of a larger scale military invasion of Russia," Justwan said early Wednesday evening.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine Thursday, claiming it's intended to protect civilians.

Zayshlyy said he is in contact with his family in Ukraine, but they haven't expressed much concern over their safety at the moment. He assumes they have plans on what to do if they needed to flee the country because of danger. But again, he mentioned conflict like this is not new for the countries and believes they've had a potential event like this on their minds.

"They don't want to see this going to be a high escalated war or something like that. No one wants to see that," Zayshlyy said.

He would like to see Ukraine and its citizen's interests get taken into account by Russia and other countries.

"I think Ukraine and Ukrainians, in general, want people to understand, 'Hey, we are our own nation. We want to decide our own fate, we want to decide our future' and if that means, 'Hey we want to go closer and work closer to Europe, work closer with NATO, that's what we want to do,'" Zayshlyy said.

Zayshlyy said Russians and Ukrainians are very close and calls the two countries siblings. He's gotten especially close to those he's met in the United States. He added many of his Russian friends and acquaintances in the Treasure Valley would like to see the conflict not escalate any further too.

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