Members of Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Partnership worry for friends living near Russian border

Two cities have been united since 1989
Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Partnership
Posted at 10:01 PM, Feb 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 23:39:37-05

CINCINNATI — As President Joe Biden warns of a "bloody, destructive war" if Russia invades Ukraine, one Tri-State group with ties to a border city said they are on edge amid heightened tensions.

Leaders involved in the Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Partnership said the friends they've made through the program need support as they sit less than 30 miles away from the Russian border. The two cities united in 1989, and the organization said more than 2,500 residents have traveled between the two cities in the past three decades.

"(We have) a huge amount of worry about people that we know there, a number of them that we have come to care a great deal about,” said Susan Neaman, vice president of the partnership. "In our country, we have not had to deal with anything like this, with armies at our borders threatening us."

Last Thursday, the group had a Zoom call with their counterparts in Ukraine to discuss the recent threats of war.

"They are optimistic that Putin and Russia won’t make such an incredible mistake of invading because the Ukrainians will resist," partnership president Bob Herring said. "It will be a mess, to put it mildly."

Biden spoke about the situation Tuesday, discussing how the U.S. will respond if Russia does decide to invade in the coming days.

“If Russia attacks Ukraine, it will be a war of choice, a war without cause or reason," Biden said. "I say these things not to provoke, but to speak the truth.”

Herring said the city's partners in Kharkiv told them they plan to defend their city if necessary.

“They don’t want to be a part of Russia," Herring said. "They are looking west to the European Union. They are looking to parliamentary democracy, a market economy as opposed to the system in Russia."

There are plans for some partners to visit Cincinnati in a few weeks, but that could change if there is an invasion. Herring says they are watching and waiting to see what happens as the plan for the visit.

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