Why does Russia want Ukraine? Chicago's Ukrainian community prays for peace amid invasion threat

Chicago's Ukrainian Village community prays for peace in home country amid threats from Russia
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Pentagon is now putting 8,500 troops on heightened alert for possible deployment to bolster NATO forces as tensions continue to grow between Ukraine and Russia, and the West.

But how did we get here and why?

Many at Chicago's St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church are praying for peace in their home country, as they do every day. With over 100,000 Russian troops amassed near the Ukrainian border, Father Serhiy Kovalchuk has been keeping in close touch with military members back home.

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"Of course, they don't want this war, but if Russia will start -- we will respond," he said.

For 103 years, Ukraine has maintained its independence from neighboring Russia and Kovalchuk said the Ukrainian people have lived with Russian threats for years.

While the latest threats may be more heightened, Ukrainian's ambassador to the United States said during a visit to Chicago Sunday that Ukraine will not be deterred.

"We are very peaceful. We do not attack, but an offensive, we will defend what is ours," said Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.

Some Ukraine/Russian experts predict Vladimir Putin will not invade.

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DePaul University political science professor Dick Farkas spent the month of December in Ukraine.

"I think this is all about signaling," Farkas said. "It's all about Vladimir Putin feeling like he has been ignored or pushed aside a bit and what's to reassert his influence in the region."

Influence that includes Putin's desired control over Poland, the Baltic nations and other countries.

"This man cannot accept the fact that these countries want to be independent, not dependent on Moscow," said Senator Dick Durbin (D) IL.

RELATED: Rep. Mike Quigley warns Russia-Ukraine tensions could 'become a very grave situation very quickly'

The United States government stands strongly behind Ukraine, as the Biden administration puts thousands of troops on high alert.

The Ukrainian community in Illinois is about 200,000 strong. Ukrainians said they are grateful for the support of the U.S. and that they are confident the latest tension will be solved through diplomacy rather than war.
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