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WNY Ukrainians Fear A Growing Crisis

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP/WBEN) - The crisis in Ukraine is being closely watched by western New York's large Ukrainian population.
Officials at the Ukrainian Cultural Center of Buffalo say they estimate there's somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 people of Ukrainian descent in the region. Many are "glued" to the Internet and television.

At St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church on Fillmore Ave., there are approximately 200 families, including many that  came from Ukraine in the past 10 to 15 years, and others with family and relatives still there.

"We are very concerned. People there have been desiring democracy for a while now, and many young men have been killed. We don't want bloodshed, we just want what is fair," says Ihor Gill, a St. Nicholas parishioner.

Attorney Dianna Derhak lived in Ukraine for 14 years before returning to family in Western New York. She says the situation is a "possible World War III" scenario and that the U.S and Europe need to send the strongest message possible to Russian President Vladimir Putin, with "nothing off the table"


Ukrainian recruits line up as they receive military instructions from a commander at a recruitment center in Kiev's Independence Square, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 4. Vladimir Putin ordered tens of thousands of Russian troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine's border to return to their bases as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was on his way to Kiev. Tensions remained high in the strategic Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea with troops loyal to Moscow fired warning shots to ward off protesting Ukrainian soldiers. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) 
Over the past three months as the situation in Ukraine deteriorated, the cultural center's members have conducted informational demonstrations in front of Buffalo City Hall, the Peace Bridge, and in Niagara Falls, Canada.
A group also went to Washington, D.C., to speak to lawmakers, including Congressman Brian Higgins of Buffalo, who is a member of the Ukrainian Congressional Caucus.

Higgins on Monday said that he does not believe military intervention in Ukraine is necessary at this point in time.

"We have to watch this situation very carefully, obviously," Higgins said. "The situation in Ukraine is one of important strategic interest to the United States, but I think that military intervention is not a good idea in this situation."

Higgins also said that he does not believe Russia's claim that they are moving forces into Ukraine to simply protect their citizens. "It's not as though there was some kind of attack on people, there were protests," Higgins said. "That's a good thing."

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 Meanwhile in Washington, President Barack Obama says Russia is "on the wrong side of history" in Ukraine and its actions violate international law.

Obama told reporters in the Oval Office Monday that the United States is considering economic and diplomatic options that will isolate Russia. The president called on Congress to work on an aid package to Ukraine and make it the "first order of business." Obama said continued military actions in Ukraine "will be a costly proposition for Russia."

Interactive Special: Scroll down  for more on the key players, The Ukraine economy,  and the Tensions.  Click the arrow below to see a timeline with pictures


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