WASHINGTON — As Russia continues to invade Ukraine, people are becoming increasingly worried about their families overseas.
John Kosogof purchased a one-way plane ticket flying into Poland, before planning to drive to the Ukrainian border to try and reach his wife and stepchildren.
"I’ve been in pretty constant contact with my family over there. I have suggested for them to get to the border, to get to Poland and to safety. However, the lines at the border are at 8, 9 and 10 hours long. You have traffic jams going back 20 miles to escape the onslaught," said Kosogof.
"My niece and her family attempted to escape but they were surrounded by Russian soldiers and they took their vehicle away and told them to march back," Kosogof added. "I'm very worried about the country, very worried about my family and all the people that have been injured and are dying."
The conflict has already driven hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians from their homes. United Nations officials said more than 120,000 Ukrainians have left the country for Poland, Moldova and other neighboring nations.
"I’ve gone through a lot of emotions. I’ve gone through sadness and anger. I am so angry, so angry that the Russians and Putin would do this. I’m so angry that the rest of the world has allowed this to happen," he said.
Kosogof plans to be gone for two weeks but purchased an open-ended plane ticket depending on how things develop.
In the meantime, he plans to volunteer at refugee sites translating.
"I don’t know whether or not I’ll be able to make it into the country. If not, I understand there are refugee centers, somebody told me last night they’re looking for interpreters so I think I’ll just volunteer as an interpreter as I try to figure out how to get her, get to my wife," said Kosogof.
"I’m very proud of the Ukrainians and of the armed forces that in the face of overwhelming odds and superiority in regards to airpower and missiles, that they are putting up a good fight. I think that the Russians thought they would already be in control by now," said Kosogof.
"The real concern here is that I’m not sure if the American public fully understands the ramifications. If we’re not careful, if we don’t stop him [Putin] now, he will be moving forward because he has already said and expressed that he’s angry that the Soviet Union has fallen apart and he wants to take control over all those countries and all that territory that he had before," said Kosogof.
"People have to realize that perhaps we have the Atlantic ocean separating us but there are intercontinental ballistic missiles and they’ve got submarines and they could be right offshore," said Kosogof.
Western officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to overthrow Ukraine’s government and replace it with a regime of his own. The invasion represented Putin’s boldest effort yet to redraw the map of Europe and revive Moscow’s Cold War-era influence.
"I think that the leadership in Europe, as well as here in America and other parts of the world has finally realized the mistakes that have been made in the past. I think it’s time we realize we are really dealing with a sick individual that that in many respects is exactly like Hitler," said Kosogof. "If we don’t stop him now, this will continue. The world is not safe. The world is not safe while Putin is in power."
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered renewed assurance over the weekend that the country’s military would stand up to the Russian invasion.
In a defiant video recorded on a downtown Kyiv street, he said he remained in the city and that claims the Ukrainian military would put down arms were false.
"We aren’t going to lay down weapons. We will protect the country,” the Ukrainian Zelenskyy said. “Our weapon is our truth, and our truth is that it’s our land, our country, our children. And we will defend all of that.”
In a second video later Saturday, Zelenskyy accused the Russian forces of hitting civilian areas and infrastructure.
The U.S. government urged Zelenskyy early Saturday to evacuate Kyiv but he turned down the offer, according to a senior American intelligence official with direct knowledge of the conversation. The official quoted the president as saying that he needed anti-tank ammunition but “not a ride.”
"I think the big message is that there really is a [danger] to us here in the United States. We may feel like we are very removed from it, but there is a big danger to us. There’s a danger on multiple fronts," said Kosogof.
The Biden administration said it was sending Ukraine up to $350 million in arms and other defensive supplies from U.S. Department of Defense stockpiles, with another $250 million in defensive support possible. With the latest move, the U.S. has provided about $1 billion in defensive support to Ukraine over the past year.