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Ukrainians in Cincinnati sister city Kharkiv talk about life under the threat of war

Kharkiv Ukraine
Evgeniy Maloletka
An instructor trains a woman to shoot from a a Kalashnikov assault rifle at a shooting range near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022, just 40 kilometers (25 miles) from some of the tens of thousands of Russian troops massed at the border of Ukraine.

A Ukrainian city near the border of Russia is one of Cincinnati's sister cities. Members of the Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Partnership met on Zoom Thursday to talk about the threat of war. One of the partnership founders, Valeriy Bakumenko, says Ukraine and Russia want peace, but Vladimir Putin has other ideas.

"We are one people, we are one country, and the Ukrainian experiment is doomed to failure," Bakumenko says. "This is what he (Putin) feels. We don't feel that."

He points out Kharkiv is 26 miles from Russia, and could be shelled without Russian troops having to cross the border.

Andriy Klymyshyn says his country is at war and has been since 2014. "We have all the support of Europe, and the United States, Canada and other countries, and that brings me some belief there will not be the real attack, real escalation; that Kharkiv will not be bombed, or something like that."

Klymyshyn says he's too old to be drafted if Russia invades, but is willing to learn how to fight, and may join a community defense force if necessary.

Viktoriia Mariniuk is on the Partnership board, and teaches English to adults in Ukraine. "People gathered in the center of the city to express their desire to live in peace, to live in the independent country. Yes, this is the attitude. People want peace. They want independence and that's it," she says.

Mariniuk says despite the threat of war, there's a sense of normalcy in Kharkiv.