NEW YORK (CBS New York) — There were indications on Monday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is inevitable.
But as CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, the diplomacy is still not over.
The State Department closes the embassy in Kiev and puts American diplomats out of harm’s way as fears of an invasion grow daily.
And as Kiev holds its breath, family members in the United States can only hope for the best.
“There is a lot of pressure in the air. Everyone is waiting for Putin or Russia to act,” said Vitalii Desiatnychenko.
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Desiatnychenko works at the Veselka restaurant in the East Village, but his thoughts are with his family in Ukraine.
“I am very worried about my family, because my mother, my father and some of my family members still live in Ukraine and obviously I don’t want anything to happen to them,” Desiatnychenko said.
He said he had just returned from Ukraine two weeks ago, adding that with the buildup of Russian troops on the border, tension was rising in cities like Kiev.
“You can’t do much against Russia, which has a huge army and Russia is about 10 times bigger than Ukraine, but Ukrainians are tough. Don’t forget that,” Desiatnychenko said.
Ukraine is now about to be surrounded by around 130,000 Russian troops. Sources told CBS News that the United States believes Russia could invade by the end of the week.
Russian units in Belarus have taken up attack positions along Ukraine’s northern border.
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But Vladimir Putin has sent mixed signals, insisting diplomacy is underway and understanding that any invasion would be a huge undertaking against a war-hardened Ukrainian military since the 2014 invasion of Crimea.
“This is the only thing these men and women have been training for for eight years,” said Andrij Dobriansky, spokesman for the Ukrainian Congress of America Committee. “He’s an enemy. It’s not a war game. They know exactly who’s attacking them.
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In Kyiv, commuters calmly headed to work on Monday morning, although the city’s metro system is also its biggest bomb shelter in the event of an attack.
“You just have to be prepared for this,” said Ukrainian war correspondent Andriy Tsapliyenko, adding that he thought an invasion would be a bloodbath. “We are fighting for ourselves, for our freedom, and that’s a reason…that’s a reason we will fight until the end.”
Pentagon officials said Monday they believe Putin has not made a final decision on an invasion, but Russian military action could occur any day, and with little or no warning.