Ukrainians: We do not want to be part of Russia
PHOENIX -- As the threat of Russian military action in Ukraine grows, two residents said the last thing the troubled country wants is interference from a world power.
"We want to stay a part of Ukraine and we want Ukraine to be an independent country, just like it was the past 23 years," said Maryna Plushnic-Gladyr.
Alex Dumanov echoed Plushnic-Gladyr's sentiments.
"We don't want to be like some chess figure in the big chess (game) of (Vladimir) Putin," he said.
Plushnic-Gladyr said the Russian presence is being felt in her town of Odessa, which is a six-hour drive from the contested Crimea region.
"They tried to attack the building of regional administration," she said. "They put a Russian flag right in front of the building."
Russia has effectively turned Crimea into a protectorate. Russian soldiers are in control of all Crimean border posts, as well as all military facilities in the territory. They also control a ferry terminal in a city that's just 12 miles across the water from Russia.
As Russia tightens its stranglehold over Crimea, it's also calling for Ukraine to return to an agreement signed last month aimed at ending Ukraine's crisis. The agreement called for President Viktor Yanukovych to hold early elections and give up many of his powers. Yanukovych later fled to Russia.
Both Plushnic-Gladyr and Dumanov said they hope western nations step in to stop the Russian aggression.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Martha Maurer, News Editor