An auto garage in Kyiv is giving beat-up cars a second life as battle-ready vehicles for Ukraine’s military, trying to plug a supply gap as the war with Russia grinds on.
The shop formerly specialised in collision repairs, but that changed after Russia invaded in February and volunteers reached out about preparing vehicles to send to the front.
Now its mechanics spend long days working on pickup trucks and buses requested by the military for tasks including transporting weaponry and surveillance drones.
“We are not a wealthy country, and the state cannot provide all our soldiers with armoured four-wheel-drive vehicles, so pickups are a compromise,” Anton Senenko, one of the volunteers coordinating the effort, told AFP.
The repair work can make the difference between life and death for soldiers operating in eastern Ukraine, where fighting is currently concentrated, he said.
“Very often, there are breakdowns with cars in peacetime. But in wartime, such a breakdown can lead to a tragedy,” he said.
“The car won’t start, and that’s it – the soldiers can no longer escape from the enemy tank.”
The vehicles are donated or purchased by fundraising Ukrainian volunteers, who often import them from neighbouring countries, including Poland, Latvia and Estonia.
Cars in combat
So far, nearly 50 vehicles have been sent to the eastern front – pickups, jeeps and a few buses, Senenko said.
The feedback from soldiers has been positive, said Vlad Samoilenko, who works with Senenko to coordinate the project.
“When you see that cars last in the field for months, it really warms the soul. It also inspires us,” Samoilenko said.
Senenko added: “We are very pleased when the fighters themselves write to us and say that the car has already travelled 15,000 kilometres without a single breakdown.”