PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — As the situation in Ukraine intensifies, a Bradley University graduate student from Ukraine said his country needs continued support from Americans.

Russian troops on Tuesday invaded the eastern Ukraine territories of Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukraine then declared a nationwide state of emergency and encouraged Ukrainians to leave Russia.

Volodymyr Kohut, 24, said it’s a dramatic escalation of a conflict ongoing since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea as a response to Ukraine’s desire to join NATO.

“Ukraine wanted to join NATO, and that’s how it all started,” he said. “For Ukraine, it didn’t start yesterday. It started eight years ago in 2014, and people have been living in stress for the past eight years.”

Kohut said Ukraine is an important part of Russia’s influence because of the strategic location between Russia and Europe.

“It protects Russian from Europe to a certain extent, and it’s really important for them to have this political and economic influence over this part of Europe,” he said.

Kohut emphasized the Ukrainian people are resilient but need support from Americans.

“Never underestimate how important it is for a country such as Ukraine to feel that support from American citizens…Russia is a huge country, and we do realize that with the support of countries like America and European countries, we can handle the situation better,” he said.

Kohut said the sanctions imposed on Russia by the Biden administration are not enough.

“It will have an effect on Russian people for sure, but I don’t think it will have an impact on Putin,” he said.

He said Ukrainians value their independence and will protect their land “at any costs.”

“It’s very important. It’s probably the most important thing in life of every Ukrainian because we are really proud of what we have,” he said. “We are preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.”