Lviv, Ukraine, Jan 12 (EFE).- Civilian volunteers are rushing to get thousands of cars from abroad for Ukrainian soldiers at the front, where mobility is often key to their survival and success on the battlefield.
A row of badly dented and burned cars stands on a central Lviv square. They are here to showcase the gruesome realities that Ukrainian soldiers, many of whom only months ago were walking these same streets as civilians, are confronted with each day as they repel Russian attacks near Bakhmut and other parts of the frontline.
Yuriy Rykhlyk is one of the dozens civilians who have dedicated most of his time to support the rapidly growing Ukrainian army.
“The state procures weapons and heavy equipment but we, volunteers, still need to help with other important things,” he tells Efe.
A radio presenter and automotive journalist, Rykhlyk has focused on helping soldiers find suitable pickup trucks. Since the start of the war, he has procured 40 cars abroad, relying on the funds entrusted to him by his social media followers and acquaintances he gained through his volunteering.
“A pickup truck has to be fast and able to drive through difficult terrain,” he explains as he shows Efe one of the cars that will soon be going to the frontline.
The pickups are indispensable due to their versatility: they are used to deliver soldiers and ammunition to their positions in the trenches, to evacuate the injured and provide mobility to drone operators and all those who need to move quickly to avoid Russian artillery fire.
The cars are also often equipped with machine guns and other weapons to directly take part in combat.
With Russia relying on its superiority in artillery and with the frontline heavily mined, many cars only manage to be useful for a short period of time. Only about 15 of the 40 cars Rykhlyk has procured are still being used.
“In one case, a car, which takes weeks to purchase, repair and deliver, only survived for three or four hours before being destroyed”, he says.
After most of the suitable cars were bought up in Poland and Germany, Rykhlyk has turned to finding cars in the UK, where he is assisted by local volunteers.
To use the funds they raise more efficiently, the cars they purchase are used ones, often with small defects that don’t affect their performance but help lower the price. The cars are normally brought into Ukraine by female volunteers since most men are not allowed to leave the country during the war.
As the invasion drags on and with the economy badly damaged, donations are falling. The willingness to help is still there, however, as numerous people from different walks of life respond to his calls for help.
“We may be running out of money but it is enough for me to post an Instagram story to ask for 20 people to come help me the next day and I can be sure they will turn up, often even without asking why they are needed,” he says.
“This unquestionable mutual trust among many Ukrainians is something that I am still in awe of,” reveals Rykhlyk as he recounts several cases when tens of thousands of euros changed hands between strangers to ensure cars were speedily bought and brought to Ukraine from abroad.
The volunteer says that while the war is taking its toll psychologically, the determination and resilience of the soldiers and the residents in the frontline areas he has spoken to has also helped him keep going.
Rykhlyk is currently working on procuring several cars. He says there is a widespread feeling that Russia is preparing something for February, when the invasion will enter its second year.
“I hear from my friends about what they are living through daily in Soledar and Bakhmut, and feel that we, civilians, all need to do more”, he underlines. EFE