PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — More than 5,000 miles separate the domes of St. Marys Ukrainian Orthodox Church in McKees Rocks from the the recent violence in Kiev’s Independence Square and the tense stalemate with Russia in Crimea.

But the distance doesn’t exist for those with deep roots in Ukraine.

“My wife hasn’t been able to sleep since this all has been going on,” said Father Tim Tomson.

Tomson’s wife is from West Ukraine. His grandfather’s name was Tchaikovsky when he left that country. He sees Vladimir Putin’s actions as an invasion, pure and simple.

“I’m not against Russians,” he said. “I’m against Russian imperialism. Ukraine is for Ukraine. Russia is for Russia.”

Once all of Ukraine fought to stay separate from Russia during the communist revolution in 1917. But in 1932, Joseph Stalin created a famine killing 6 to 9 million Ukrainians, mostly in the east. He then deported Russians to replace them. That’s part of the reason for current tensions.

Now the west of the country is Ukrainian speaking and pro-European Union. The east, along with the Crimean Peninsula, is primarily Russian-speaking and Kremlin-oriented.

“The stated fear by Vladimir Putin that they are protecting the rights of ethnic Russians in Crimea and in East Ukraine is simply an excuse,” said Michael Komichak.

Komichak’s heritage is Ukrainian – but he’s also a retired US Army Colonel and military intelligence specialist.

He doubts that Putin will roll tanks through Ukraine, and believes that Putin may be satisfied in protecting his important Black Sea Naval Base on Crimea. But Komichak also wants to see the US and others keep the pressure on — diplomatically or economically.

“Whether it’s to provide the Ukrainians with military intelligence as to Russian movements,” he said, “all of those things could cause Putin to believe we’re serious without crossing the line or bumping heads.”

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