Oil prices, Silicon Valley business, jeopardized by Russian and Ukrainian conflict

Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the stakes for a Russian invasion of Ukraine Monday, causing a ripple effect on the global economy, and heightening anxiety for both Russian and Ukrainian residents across the Bay Area.

Yana Rathman grew up in Kyiv, and has called San Francisco home since 1989. She works on educational projects in Ukraine, and worries friends and colleagues there are in danger of a violent Russian invasion.

"This is a new phase I would say, a much more dangerous phase," Rathman said of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that's endured for nearly a decade, but is now at a boiling point.

"I have a lot of people that I'm worried about," Rathman said.

She was among the crowd of people who rallied outside the Ferry Building in San Francisco Sunday, raising awareness about the escalating crisis between Russia and Ukraine. She wants Bay Area residents to educate themselves on the conflict through local resources like Nova Ukraine, a nonprofit in Palo Alto.

"A lot of people work in Silicon Valley, a lot of people come here as students to places like Berkeley, like Stanford, to teach there," Rathman said of the Bay Area's Ukrainian community. 

Ukraine is also a hub for outsourced IT labor that Silicon Valley companies rely on. Rathman said Russia is putting Ukraine's economy, and ability to do business with the United States, in jeopardy.

Sabrina Pinnell, an adjunct professor of political science who specializes in post-Soviet politics at San Jose State University, worries about backlash against Russians in the United States, "harassment is actually a concern of mine," Pinnell said.

The price of oil is another concern. Oil prices rose Monday, to nearly $100 a barrel amid the international standoff.

All eyes are on how the United States responds to Russia's encroachment into Ukraine. Experts say imposing sanctions is unlikely to make Russia flinch.

"Ukraine is going to ask probably for military help," Pinnell said.

At Samovar, an Eastern European market in Mountain View, political conversations are off-limits. The owner said Russian and Ukrainian customers come in daily, craving peace of mind and a bit of home.

"We know our customers, we know what they want, we know how they feel," Alex Alshvang, the owner of the grocery store, which has served the community for more than 25 years, said. "We are trying to support them not only with the food, but mentally as well."