UPDATE: Area man concerned for family, friends in Ukraine

24-year-old Eduard Svystun says his family can hear air raid sirens from their family home in the Rivne region of Ukraine.

UPDATED STORY POSTED March 1, 2022 AT 6:00 P.M.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – As the world continues to watch the conflict in Ukraine evolve, 24-year-old Eduard Svystun, whose family lives in Ukraine, is doing everything he can to stay in touch, praying each day for their safety.

“Every morning I wake up and I’m like, is this a dream or is it a nightmare? And then a few seconds later I realize that it’s true it’s not a nightmare,” said Svystun.

Svystun says he can’t get the conflict out of his mind.

“I’m thinking about it 24/7, hearing about it all over the place,” said Svystun.

He says one of the worst parts is hearing his mother’s fear when she talks about the air raid sirens in Klevan, just a few miles from his family’s home.

“She is absolutely terrified. She can’t sleep at night. We got those air sirens, they go off three or four times a night. My mom is really really scared,” said Svystun.

While Svystun lives in Lexington, his entire family lives in the Rivne region of Ukraine, about 200 miles from Kyiv. He says he calls home as often as he can, but worries anytime they don’t answer the phone.

“First, they might lose the service, the internet connection. And worse case scenario, they might die. And I just want to spend as much time with them as I can,” said Svystun.

Some of his friends, who mostly live in Kyiv from his time at Kyiv National Economic University, are now in the Ukranian Army. He says he texts them often, not knowing when he’ll be able to talk to them next. One of his friends on the front lines is his university roommate of two years, who he says he is very close to.

“It feels terrible. I text him every chance I get. He can’t pick up the phone obviously, but he can text me now and then…it’s scary that in one or two seconds I could lose my best friends, you know?” said Svystun.

He says his family has decided to stay and fight if necessary, even though he begged his mother to flee to Poland with his 5-year-old brother. He says his father and his 22-year-old brother have both decided to volunteer in Ukraine’s Army reserves if needed.

“They said, it’s our house. We’ve spent our whole lives here. We’ve built it, we’re going to defend it. My dad said, ‘who’s going to defend it if not me?'” said Svystun.

Svystun says he fears what will be left of the country for his little brother. For now, all he can do is watch from afar.

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED FEBRUARY 16, 2022 AT 5:49 P.M.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – As the world watches the Russia-Ukraine border crisis, there’s a man in Lexington who’s watching closer than most: he’s got family back home in Ukraine.

24-year-old Eduard Svystun has lived in Lexington for 6 years after moving from Ukraine as an exchange student. He says he fears for his family, who lives in a small village in western Ukraine, about 120 miles from Poland’s border.

“You got Russian troops pretty much surrounding all over the Ukraine, they’ve got troops in Belarus who are pretty close to us, so, yeah, I’m feeling pretty safe over here but I’m pretty worried about my family. Hopefully they’ll be safe but you just don’t know,” said Svystun.

He says he has friends who have already left the country out of fear.

“I kind of feel like Russia is not going to invade but the government changes their mind every day. So I have some friends that have left the country, they left to Portugal because they’re not feeling safe. If it gets too far they’re not going to be able to leave the country,” said Svystun.

Svystun says that for his family, relocating wouldn’t be easy. His 5-year-old brother has a medical condition, and his family’s village is home: they’ve lived there for 25 years.

“It’s not easy to leave your house and go somewhere else. So they’re just praying and hoping for the best,” said Svystun.

The Associated Press reports Russia is promising a de-escalation of military presence, pulling some of the 150,000 troops, as well as weapons, along the Russia-Ukraine border back.

According to The Associated Press, the Russian Defense Ministry released video of armored vehicles moving away from Crimea, and announced that tank units in the Western Military District were being loaded on trains to be taken back to Russia after training exercises.

However, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki says the U.S. isn’t taking that promise at “face value,” and NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says that as of February 15, there are “no signs of de-escalation” on the border.

According to UK Patterson School of Diplomacy professor Dr. Robert Farley, major war isn’t likely at this point.

“Over the past few days, I’ve grown a lot more optimistic that the Russians may be viewing this as too much of a problem and will try to step back from the brink. So now, as opposed to maybe three days ago, there is more than a 50 percent chance of getting out of this without major war,” said Farley.

However, Dr. Farley says the threat of some level of conflict still remains strong.

“My guess is that we will see some milder, smaller escalations along the border, especially in the two separatist republics that Russia has been supporting. We may see those areas recognized by Russia and we may see Russia annex those areas,” said Dr. Farley.

Wednesday, The Associated Press reports Russian military flew fighter jet training missions and held shooting drills in Belarus. However, Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei says the troops will be gone by Sunday, when training exercises end.

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