Feb 23, 2022 - Politics

Tampa Bay organization coordinating rescue efforts in Ukraine

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A Tampa Bay organization is pitching in with rescue efforts as Russia invades Ukraine.

Driving the news: President Biden announced Monday what he called the "first tranche" in a series of stiff sanctions to punish Russia and said Americans will feel the consequences of war, per Axios' Dave Lawler.

State of play: Tampa-based organization Project Dynamo is in Kyiv getting ready to help Americans evacuate.

  • Co-founder and Tampa resident Bryan Stern told Axios he's planning the first rescue mission of about 20-30 people in the next day or two.
  • While he waits to see whether Russian troops push further into the country, he says cell phone coverage has become less reliable and more air carriers are pulling service.
  • By starting evacuations now, he's trying to avoid what happened when Kabul fell to the Taliban in August, with thousands of people flooding Afghanistan's borders to try and escape.
  • A retired combat veteran, Stern helped evacuate Americans and allies from Afghanistan.

What they're saying: "The ability to get out is deteriorating by the minute. … If you're an American stuck in that zoo, it's going to be pretty terrible. That's why we're here, to mitigate that as much as possible," Stern says.

His message to Americans in Ukraine: "If you can get out, leave. We're not a travel agency. If you have the means to go, go."

How to help: Stern urges Tampa Bay residents to spread the word about Project Dynamo so people can request evacuation help, and donate if they can. All donations will go toward operational requirements like flights, COVID tests, buses and safe houses.

Meanwhile, local Ukrainian Americans have been gathering to pray for peace.

  • Bishop Bohdan Danylo at St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church in North Port told Axios that his congregation has been gathering to pray since late December, when news first broke of a possible invasion.

Danylo is grateful for the spotlight the media has shone on the issue. "Now, when you stand with the blue and yellow flag, people know it's Ukraine and they know what's happening over there," he says.

Go deeper: Get live updates from our Russia-Ukraine crisis dashboard.


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