A shortage of protective gear has forced Ukrainian volunteers near kyiv to share body armor to deliver lifesaving aid to injured civilians


Dilapidated and partially collapsed buildings in the town of Bila Tserkva, located about 80 km south of kyiv.Courtesy of Anna Fedchenko

  • Anna Fedchenko, who volunteers with an NGO stationed outside Kyiv, told Insider the group ran out of medical supplies and needed bulletproof vests.

  • Due to lack of supplies, some volunteers share a single bulletproof vest.

  • When volunteers walk around the city without body armor, they risk being shot by Russian forces, she said.

Anna Fedchenko is desperate.

Fedchenko joined Let’s Do It, Ukraine – an NGO based just outside kyiv – on the first day of the invasion of Ukraine to provide vital lifelines to civilians who are constantly being bombarded by Russian forces.

“I took a three-hour course on how to provide first aid,” Fedchenko, a sociologist from Ukraine, told Insider in a Zoom interview through a translator. “And I had knowledge about it, and I wanted to be useful for the country in some way. That’s why I joined this territorial defense group.”

Since then, Fedchenko and four other volunteers have provided essential aid to injured civilians, as well as food and other basic necessities. But now the group itself needs help.

Fedchenko and his group of volunteers not only ran out of medical supplies — there are no bandages or first-aid kits, she said — but also vital equipment to get around a battlefield. perilous. In particular, they need bulletproof vests.

Without them, they risk death as they walk through the city unarmed and unprotected, Fedchenko said. Russian soldiers at the start of the invasion shot a volunteer, Fedchenko recalls, but he survived, probably because he was wearing a bulletproof vest.

“They are not professional military men,” Fedchenko said. “And most of the supplies that we receive as aid from other countries, like helmets and vests, go directly to the army, which [is] based mainly in hotspots like Kyiv or the eastern part of Ukraine,” leaving volunteers vulnerable to danger.

Volunteers “would like to help our local residents, our people that we live with,” Fedchenko told Insider. “To protect them somehow.”

“We don’t have enough strength”

As Russian soldiers try to force their way into the capital, nearby towns like Bila Tserkva, about 80 km south of kyiv, have become sites of attack. Ukrainian military officials said Bila Tserkva was under curfew, Fedchenko said.

The war between Ukrainian and Russian soldiers resulted in some buildings in Bila Tserkva collapsing, Fedchenko said, killing some residents and injuring others. But without medical supplies, the volunteers cannot help the injured.

“We are trying to find all the necessary supplies, starting with food, medicine,” Fedchenko said.

When Russian soldiers last month bombed a military station that housed drugs, Fedchenko said it further complicated their efforts.

“All the drugs have been destroyed,” she said.

Since then, she and other volunteers from Let’s Do It, Ukraine have been trying to find painkillers and other medicine for the people of Bila Tserkva.

Meanwhile, Fedchenko and other volunteers working with Let’s Do It, Ukraine are still trying to help the townspeople, despite numerous reports of Russian forces volunteering.

The Kharkiv human rights group, for example, said earlier this month that at least four volunteers had been killed by Russian soldiers while tending to civilians or animals. wounded. Oleksandr Feldman, a member of Ukrainian parliament and social activist, made similar statements, as did Kyiv Independent, a Ukrainian media outlet. Insider is unable to independently verify these claims.

Some Let’s Do It, Ukraine volunteers have come up with a system where they share a single vest, according to Fedchenko. As they tend to civilians outside, they wear the vest in rotation, she said. Doctors who have to treat wounds caused by shelling by Russian forces “are left without vests”, she said.

Damaged buildings and debris in Bila Tserkva.

Damaged buildings and debris in Bila Tserkva.Courtesy of Anna Fedchenko

“Young people will risk their lives just to help others,” she added.

Volunteers have found body armor suppliers who sell them for around $440 apiece, she said, a price “impossible for us as volunteers to cover”. At the same time, they are already spending money on gasoline for their pickup trucks to transport materials and supplies from the border to various towns and regions, she said.

Due to the difficulty of obtaining supplies, Fedchenko began contacting her friends abroad, she said, asking them to buy what they need and then send it by post.

Sometimes “it’s quicker to get all these supplies through these local volunteers who can personally buy through their volunteer network,” Fedchenko said.

But there can be some hiccups with this strategy.

She said, for example, that a friend in San Diego sent three bulletproof vests, but thinks the package got lost in the mail.

A New York-based friend of his, Vamsee, told Insider he was fervently trying to ship body armor to Ukraine to help Fedchenko and the other volunteers. He called body armor suppliers in Texas and New Jersey, as well as other countries like Denmark and the Netherlands. But all told him they would not be able to ship an order to Ukraine, he said.

“I don’t need to do this alone. I don’t want to be Rambo,” he said. “At one point I thought about buying 10, getting on a plane, going to the border and giving it to them. But there has to be a better way.”

Fedchenko, in a plea for help, asked the Americans to send medical supplies and body armor to Ukraine.

But at the very least, she said, the United States should impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine to deter Russian forces from firing missiles into the sky. However, President Joe Biden and other Western leaders have resisted calls, including from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to implement the no-fly zone.

“His [an] unjust war where Russia can hit us with missiles and we don’t have enough strength to protect ourselves from the strikes above us,” she said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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