It’s a cold and rainy morning as Yahoo News arrives at an anonymous industrial estate somewhere outside of Kyiv. We are here to meet the volunteers of Ukraine Aid Ops, one of a growing number of civilian organizations that supply Ukrainian troops and civilians with humanitarian and nonlethal military aid.
Over the next four days they have more than 10 deliveries to make to Ukrainian troops spread across the east of the country, supplying them with vital protective equipment.
Ukraine Aid Ops is run by a former Estonian soldier named Harri (he asks that Yahoo News not use his full name for security purposes) who originally arrived in Ukraine as a foreign military volunteer. He later realized he could make more of a difference by sourcing and distributing protective gear for a hastily mobilized and poorly equipped Ukrainian army. Harri’s organization began acquiring, and then even manufacturing, NATO-standard ballistic plates — heavy body armor that protects a soldier’s vital organs from bullets and artillery shrapnel.
“In the beginning I told myself that even if our plates could save one life it would be worth it,” he says.
Over 30 Ukrainian soldiers have reached out to his organization via text message and said their lives had been saved by the group’s protective equipment, according to Harri, who showed Yahoo News some of the texts on his phone. [Continue reading…]