Dennis Sladkovskyi breathed a sigh of relief when he found out a column of Russian soldiers that was marching toward Bobrynekis, Ukraine suddenly turned another direction, leaving the city intact — at least for a while.
Sladkovskyi, who came to Hobbs five years ago on an athletic scholarship at New Mexico Junior College, calls the town — roughly 6,000 miles from Hobbs — home and has many relatives still there.
After he graduated from NMJC, Sladkovskyi stayed on as a permanent, legal resident. He now works for UPS, a job he likes, but says the jobs is “hard now because I’m so worried.”
He’s worried because many of his family members are living through the nearly two-week Russian invasion.
“Cousins, aunts, uncles and my 95 year old grandma,” he told the News-Sun Friday afternoon. “My parents were supposed to be here to make their yearly visit on March 2, and then the Russians invaded. They’ve (The Ukrainian government) issued my father a firearm and my mother won’t leave my father, so they’re there.”
Sladkovskyi is occasionally able to talk with members of his family, “but the connection is so bad that what we usually do is text. That’s how I know how they’re doing and what’s happening in Ukraine.”
He said what’s happening is “the Russians are killing civilians, little children and mothers and old people and I can’t do anything to help. Putin never expected that the Russians would meet the kind of resistance the army has met. He thought the army would march in and be met with open arms and flowers and it would all be over in two days.”
Sladkovskyi said he believes Putin’s attack on Ukraine was motivated by Russian fear that Ukraine might join NATO, (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) — the mutual defense pact that says an attack on one is an attack on all.
“The United States is part of NATO and Putin knew that if Ukraine joined NATO and if he then attacked Ukraine, the United States would join Europe in putting down the invasion,” said Sladkovskyi.
Sladkovskyi also believes part of Putin’s motivation is to show he is a strong leader who can make other nations obey him.
“He made up all that about liberating Ukraine from Nazis,” said Sladkovskyi. “There aren’t any Nazis in power in the Ukraine. We are a free nation and we have a right to act as a free nation. At the beginning of this, Europe should have supported us by sending fighter jets and other weapons. Now they are coming in, anti-tank weapons and there are people from all over Europe who are coming to join the fight.
“Putin is surprised and not very happy. This hasn’t gone the way he thought it would and he’s got the nuclear weapons ready. There’s no telling what he might do. Everybody knows he’s crazy. How this has turned out is a complete embarrassment for him, a humiliation.”
Sladkovskyi said the Ukrainian people have stood up to a bully — Putin and the Russian army.
“The Russian army is going to be defeated. They’ve run out of fuel, water and food. Russian soldiers are being captured and killed and (Putin) doesn’t have the kind of support he thought he would have. Maybe he’ll shoot himself, the way Hitler did.”
Sladkovskyi said sanctions imposed by the western nations create the kind of hardship that may finally topple Putin.
“The oligarchs, when they begin to feel the sanctions, will finally go after him,” Sladkovskyi said.
But, whether Putin might face an uprising from the Russian people is doubtful, Sladkovskyi said.
“He is protected by the state police, carefully guarded all the time,” said Sladkovskyi. “But the Ukrainian people will never give up. They will still be fighting for their land. They know there is no negotiating with a killer, with a bully.”