A band of Tampa-based veterans discreetly went to work as the first Russian missile hit Ukraine, killing dozens.
Ukraine Volunteers from Project Dynamo in Florida have been working diligently to remove roughly two dozen Americans caught in the turmoil and terror of the Russian assault on Ukraine.
(Reuters) – A private volunteer group from Florida said it has launched an attempt to usher about two dozen Americans out of Ukraine in the first evacuation of U.S. citizens since the country came under Russian military attack. Group is the Tampa-based nonprofit Project Dynamo
— Phil Stewart (@phildstewart) February 25, 2022
No American troops have been sent in to retrieve Americans. Nobody was going; so, the group of vets realized it was up to them to do the job.
Project Dynamo began planning for Ukraine in January. It recently declared a presence in Kyiv and stated it was planning for an American evacuation.
The urgency grew after the US State Department removed diplomatic employees and abandoned the US Embassy in Kyiv. After Russia attacked Ukraine by ground, air, and water late Wednesday, the necessity to evacuate Americans became urgent.
“Project Dynamo is presently rescuing roughly 28 Americans,” stated Project Dynamo spokesperson James Judge.
On Thursday, the organization said it was rescuing a woman from New Mexico. The woman had gone to Ukraine for her dad’s funeral. She asked for help and didn’t expect the situation in Ukraine to deteriorate so rapidly.
Rescue efforts for endangered Americans started in Kyiv as Russian bombardment on the Ukrainian capital began. The evacuees met at a designated location and boarded three vehicles heading for an unnamed neighboring country.
“Our staff on the ground felt the close blasts in Kyiv,” Judge stated. Scores of displaced Americans contacted the organization. Officials estimate that 30,000 Americans live in Ukraine.
Similar efforts by other countries have met with different degrees of success.
Several weeks ago, as hostilities between Ukraine and Russia grew, Ukraine allowed non-essential foreigners, academics, and embassy employees to leave the country.
When the airstrikes started and tanks arrived, Ukraine announced a NOTAM, prohibiting all civilian aircraft from entering and leaving the zone.
One of three Air India planes assigned to evacuate Indian nationals from Kiev had to return mid-flight. Other flights, notably one from Ukraine International Airlines, were rerouted to a Moldovan airport.
Actions by Countries
Though even before Russian soldiers invaded Ukraine, numerous airlines canceled flights, due to major safety concerns in both countries.
Lufthansa and Swiss Airlines halted flights to Kiev on Monday. SAS and Air France followed. Lufthansa also ceased service. KLM stated it would fly directly to Ukraine. It’s unknown if other countries have plans to evacuate individuals from the war-torn country.
More than twelve countries, including the US, the UK, and Germany, urged their citizens to leave Ukraine a week before the invasion. They were joined by Japan and Australia.
The US Embassy in Kyiv was told to evacuate. Canada relocated its embassy to Lviv, near Poland’s border. About 150 US personnel were asked to leave Ukraine “out of an excess of caution.”
Unlike her counterparts, UK Ambassador Melinda Simmons stated she and her core staff will remain in Kiev, citing “potential acts of aggression by the Kyiv authorities or third countries,” also relocated personnel from Kyiv.
A wholly unprovoked attack on a peaceful country 🇺🇦 is unfolding. Horrified. Just because you’ve prepared and thought about this possibility for weeks and months doesn’t mean it isn’t shocking when it actually happens.
— Melinda Simmons (@MelSimmonsFCDO) February 24, 2022
Foreigners have been scurrying to find their own way out with minimal aid.
Stuart McKenzie, who has lived in Kyiv for 30 years and owns a thriving business there, told the BBC he was prepared to drive 300 miles to Poland to board a plane to safety.