Ukrainian-born ballroom dance champion Maksim Chmerkovskiy—best known as one of the pros on 17 seasons of Dancing with the Stars—is in Kyiv, where he’s been sending out dispatches from the capital city even as the Russians continue to invade the sovereign nation. Although he had been trying to escape the war zone to Poland, he reported on Friday that he’s staying put for now because it’s too dangerous to do anything else.
The besieged nation has ordered all men 18 to 60 to stay and defend Ukraine. Although technically Chmerkovskiy—who emigrated to the United States with his family in the 1990s—is allowed to leave because he has a U.S. passport, it’s not that simple.
“I just want to clarify that I’m not currently trying to leave,” he said on his most recent Instagram post. “I’m staying here. I’m gonna do my best to make sure that I’m as safe as possible, but I’m not moving toward the border currently. I heard it’s not safe.”
He added, “Unfortunately, some of my friends are right now on the route, on the road to Polish border, but they are also reporting that it’s not safe and there’s a lot of just senseless activity going on outside of war stuff. But I made a decision not to try to go right now. I’m just going to be here and I’ll keep you posted of what’s happening next.”
Chmerkovskiy did not elaborate on the “senseless activity,” but as of Thursday Poland was setting up refugee centers along its 332-mile border with Ukraine and the United Nations has stated that the mass exodus would have “devastating” humanitarian consequences, urging all of Ukraine’s neighbors to allow the refugees in.
In another message from the same location Friday, Chmerkovskiy said, “I’m out here again, I’m safe. We haven’t been told to move, and I’m just following instructions. That’s all I can say. But the reality is that I’m also talking to my friends that are here, the Ukrainians, and the situation is pretty dire.”
Chmerkovskiy confirmed reports that his country is desperately attempting to get on a war footing. In fact, he was in Ukraine to judge the reality series World of Dance UA, according to CNN, and Chmerkovskiy said he’s even seen some of the contestants taking up arms.
“People are being mobilized,” he said. “The whole country is being called to go to war. Men, women, boys—people that I was judging some days ago in dance competitions are going forward and getting guns and getting deployed to defend the country.”
In a video statement of his own Friday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to anyone watching: “If you have combat experience in Europe, come to our country and defend Europe together with us.”
Chmerkovskiy married fellow DWTS pro Peta Murgatroyd in 2017. Murgatroyd and the couple’s five-year-old son are not in Ukraine.
On Friday’s post, Chmerkovskiy wrote in the comments, “Please speak and post about all of this, so talking resumes and shooting stops!”
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