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February 24, 2022

Russians in Arizona watch with dismay and sadness the invasion of Ukraine

WASHINGTON — It’s been decades since Paul Antseliovich moved away from Moscow and Nikolai Riasnianski left behind both the big city and the small Russian town where he grew up. But years and miles haven’t made the events of the past few weeks any easier to watch for the two longtime Arizona residents. “It’s painful, you know, to see this unnecessary tension between our countries,” Antseliovich said of the weeks of Russian aggression that culminated in Thursday’s invasion of Ukraine. Ryasniansky said “what is happening right now is a bad thing to do…for Russia, for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin.” Putin announced the invasion of Ukraine early Thursday, after weeks of Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border for what he said were military exercises. Despite weeks of diplomatic negotiations with Western countries, Putin on Monday declared Donetsk and Luhansk — two parts of Ukraine seized by Russian-backed separatists during a 2014 invasion — as independent republics. And early Thursday,

he announced

a “special military operation” to protect these “republics”. Valley pediatrician Paul Antseliovich grew up in Moscow but has lived in the United States for nearly 25 years. (Photo courtesy of Paul Antseliovich) The announcement came as the United Nations Security Council was in the midst of an emergency meeting to discuss diplomatic options to avert an invasion. Almost immediately after Putin’s announcement, missiles and airstrikes began and the 175,000 Russian troops began pouring into Ukraine from Russia in the east, from Crimea – a part of Ukraine that Russia annexed in 2014 – to the south and from Russia’s ally Belarus to the north. . Putin said Russia had no plans to occupy Ukraine, but also issued a chilling warning: “Anyone who tries to stop us and create more threats for our country, for our people, should know that the response of Russia will be immediate and will bring consequences such as you have never faced in your history.” President Joe Biden has repeatedly said that US troops will not fight in Ukraine, but have been deployed to Eastern Europe to defend NATO countries there if necessary. He dismissed Putin’s claim that the invasion was about ‘genuine security concerns’, saying it was ‘naked aggression, Putin’s desire for empire by any means required”. Biden announced a new

set of penalties

against Russia on Thursday for what he called Putin’s “premeditated war that will result in catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.” Thursday’s sanctions against banking and commerce were coordinated with similar actions by NATO allies. They followed

penalties imposed

earlier this week when Putin sent troops to the supposedly independent regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, which included shutting down the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Europe.

(Audio by Alexandra Mora Medina/Cronkite News)

“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will suffer the consequences,” he added.

Biden said

Thusday. Both Antseliovich and Riasnianski have family and friends who still live in Russia. People are “sick and tired” of political games, Riasnianski said. “It’s a big political game. OK,” he said. “It’s a huge political game, unfortunately a lot of people are going to pay.”

Nikolai Riasnianski, originally from Russia, has lived in the United States since 1992 and in Arizona for much of that time. (Photo courtesy of Nikolai Riasnianski)
With the dreaded invasion underway, Antseliovich said he felt embarrassed for Russia. “It’s very sad, to be honest, you know, and I’m a little ashamed,” he said. “Because it shouldn’t happen.” Neither man feels the need to defend the actions of the Russian government. “There’s nothing to defend, you know…I’m against these actions,” Antseliovich said. “I always stand up for the Russian people, though.” Both Antseliovich and Riasnianski said their friends and neighbors in Arizona knew they were from Russia, but that wasn’t a problem during the run-up to the invasion. If friends asked, they said, they would urge people to differentiate between the Russian government and the Russian people. But Riasnianski said he felt no animosity, while Antseliovich said the main response from neighbors had been curiosity. It’s something the two said they enjoy in their new home. “That’s the kind of distinctive part of the United States, I don’t know, the attitude of people,” Riasnianski said. Both have had years to build their new lives in America. Antseliovich, a pediatrician, first came to Los Angeles in 1998 before moving to the Phoenix area. Riasnianski, who was an actor, came to the United States for a tour in the 1990s and returned permanently in 1992, settling in Seattle before ending up in Arizona where he is a real estate agent. [related-story-right box-title=”Related story” link=”https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2022/02/18/despite-rising-russian-tension-im-here-and-here-ill-stay-in-ukraine/” image=”https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/ukrainetroops-800.jpg” headline=”Despite rising Russian tension, ‘I’m here and here i’ll stay’ in Ukraine”] Both men said they moved to the United States for the most American reason – a better opportunity. Antseliovich still visits his family in Russia every year, while Riasnianski stays in touch with Russian friends and family who come to visit. But both said they enjoyed their life in Arizona – Antseliovich said he was “totally in love” with the state, where Riasnianski said he felt lucky to live. “I had the chance to live life, the chance to live here, to look at my life from a different angle. It’s an absolutely unique experience,” Riasnianski said.