The Russian military killed two foreign aid workers in eastern Ukraine this weekend and injured two more, launching a missile strike that hit their van as they drove to assess the needs of civilians.
A year and a half since Russia invaded Ukraine, attacks against aid workers, both Ukrainian and foreign, are on the rise. The toll over the weekend adds to casualties reported last week by the UN, which documented at least six workers killed this year and 16 injured, compared with four killed in 2022.
The missile strike hit a van of volunteers from Road to Relief, a Ukrainian NGO, near Bakhmut, which fell to Moscow in May. The vehicle flipped and caught fire, killing Anthony Ihnat of Canada and Emma Igual of Spain, according to the BBC. Two other volunteers, Ruben Mawick of Germany and Johan Mathias Thyr of Sweden, were severely injured. Ukraine’s defense ministry blamed “Russian terrorists” for the strike and said the Road to Relief was “entirely focused on civilian projects.”
Last week, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that there have been 100 “security incidents” affecting aid work in Ukraine this year, often hitting distribution points and forcing a temporary halt to the aid, according to the BBC. In January, British nationals Chris Parry and Andrew Bagshaw died while rescuing an elderly woman from Soledar, in eastern Ukraine, when their car was struck by a shell.
Since February 2022, Russia’s assault on Ukraine has killed or wounded nearly 500,000 Ukrainian and Russian troops, US officials estimated in August, according to the New York Times. In just a year and a half, the estimated number of Ukrainian soldiers killed, about 70,000, has surpassed the toll of American troops in Vietnam over two decades, the Times reported; it’s nearly equal to the number of Afghan security forces killed in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021.
On Sunday, Russian drones also targeted Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, according to the Associated Press, wounding at least one civilian and damaging homes, stores, a hospital, a school, and a kindergarten.