Those two words, sent via Facebook Messenger at 8:12 p.m. Wednesday evening, implied a deep sense of sadness and concern on the part of the sender, a Wyoming businessman who lives part of the year in the now war-torn country of Ukraine.
“So far, everyone is safe,” Nick Piazza, a Cody native whose investment business is based in Ukraine, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.
But he expressed concern the fighting that has begun half a world away won’t be limited to the central European country whose people are now frightened for their lives.
“What (Russian President Vladimir Putin) is really trying to do is dismantle this U.S.-led system of law and order that has been ruling the world since World War II,” Piazza said.
“And so we start in a little spot in Ukraine, and all of a sudden you have the Russian army on the border of Europe, and they’re saying that they don’t want NATO in the former Eastern Bloc countries,” he said. “So that’s Poland, that’s Slovakia, that’s Czech Republic, Romania – that they don’t have the right to defend themselves and that Russia gets to have a say in how they govern themselves, that’s terrifying and would change the whole world.”
Russian military forces on Thursday morning (Ukraine time) launched a full-scale invasion of the central European country, sending in troops and tanks from multiple directions, as well as targeting cities and military bases with land-based missiles.
The attack this week is the largest ground war action Europe has seen since the end of World War II.
“This is not an attack on Ukraine per se,” said Piazza. “This is basically an attack on the international security structures that have been in place since the end of World War II.”
Piazza’s investment firm, SP Capital Management, is based in the country’s capital city of Kyiv. He told Cowboy State Daily that in many ways, what’s happening in Ukraine has great meaning to many people in Wyoming, as the Ukranians are taking steps to defend themselves.
“There are a lot of restrictions on who can basically own firearms and things like that (in Ukraine),” Piazza explained. “And given everything that’s going on, the Ukrainian Congress approved the new law that now allows Ukrainians to own firearms legally. And from a Wyoming perspective, it’s something that we think is very important, to defend our freedoms.”
With the passing of the new law, gun stores in Ukraine are seeing a dramatic increase in sales, with some reportedly running out of inventory. A report in the Guardian said almost 400,000 Ukrainians have combat experience and Piazza said the citizens there are not afraid to fight for their homes.
“They’re very big on the idea of being free from the Soviet Union,” he said. “And I think we need to remember that they’ve already lost roughly 15,000 people to this kind of hot and cold conflict with Russia since 2014.”
On social media Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted that “Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself and won’t give up its freedom.”
Piazza pointed out that the United States has spent decades focusing on keeping the peace around the world and the attack by Russian troops signals a dark turn for international relations.
“We’ve put a lot of people in the ground, we’ve shed a lot of American blood, to make sure that the world is a free and safe place,” he said. “And this guy (Putin) is trying to tear that down and divide the world between the US and Europe, and Russia and China. And this is step one, in my opinion.”