CHICAGO - After signing a "mutual assistance" treaty with the pro-Russian leaders of two breakaway parts of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin is now sending in Russian soldiers.
He calls it "peacekeeping." Others, including Ukrainian-Americans in Chicago, call it an act of war.
As civilians continued to evacuate the largely pro-Russian regions of Lukhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, Putin ordered in the Russian military.
Ukrainian-Americans in the Chicago area, now talking every day to relatives there, fear Putin won't stop short of full-scale war.
"We could be looking at a massive refugee situation, anywhere from five to eight million people," said Pavlo Bandriwsky, Vice President, Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.
Many of Ukraine’s 44 million people are preparing for the worst. U.S. officials said former KGB Agent Putin is preparing a hit list of Ukrainian leaders, some to be killed, some to be locked up in prison camps.
"It will be a war waged by Russia on the Ukrainian people to repress them, to crush them, to harm them," said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
The state department said American diplomats posted to Ukraine were now moving to Poland, where Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin was visiting and wrote: "whether Putin is driven by megalomaniacal delusions of restoring the Soviet Union or is simply seeking to create chaos and sow dissension among Ukraine and NATO allies is unclear...My message this week to our friends in Poland and Lithuania is very simple: you are not alone."
In an angry, pre-recorded speech, Putin talked for an hour about his belief that Russia’s entitled to reclaim Ukraine and other now-independent nations once ruled by Russian tsars, or by the Soviet Union, which ceased to exist 30 years ago.
"You can feel the reverberations across eastern Europe and western Europe where there is a, a lot of concern. Where does Putin stop? Where does this thing end?" said former US diplomat Brett Bruen.
At Ukraine’s request, the United Nations Security Council convened an emergency meeting Monday night. Since Russia holds a veto over any final decision, nothing substantive was expected to emerge.