Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Lithuanian Dakar racers lead Ukraine first aid kit drive

Antanas Juknevičius, Benediktas Vanagas, and Vaidotas Žala are among six ambassadors for a new campaign launched in their home country of Lithuania to donate car first aid kits to Ukraine. Known as “Milijonas vaistinėlių Ukrainai” (“Million Medicines for Ukraine”), the programme targets Lithuanian drivers being required to replace the first aid kits in their cars starting on 1 July, which are typically stashed away elsewhere but will now head towards Ukrainian military and civilian relief efforts.

The kits are typically bright red, orange, or black in colour and includes items like bandages, burn and wound dressings, and gloves while other goods vary by manufacturer. Due to the war in Ukraine creating supply chain concerns, the Lithuanian Ministry of Health announced in October 2022 that drivers have until July of the next year to get a new kit containing new items like a bag valve mask, pressure bandages, ice packs, and tourniquets. A full kit replacement is not necessary unless the old one was purchased before 1 January 2019.

They can be dropped off at participating Circle K and Lidl locations from 19 June through 3 July, from which they are picked up by domestic mail carrier DPD Lietuva and taken to the campus of energy electric supplier UAB Elektrum for storage before being shipped to Ukraine.

“Lithuania continues to hear the Ukrainians’ request for help. If we can replace broken, damaged things with new ones, one thing is priceless in Ukraine’s fight against the occupier: the lives and health of military and civilians,” said Lithuanian Minister of Transport Marius Skuodis. “We urge the people of Lithuania to donate first aid kits to Ukrainians.”

As the name suggests, the campaign hopes to acquire one million kits for donation. Seventy have already been picked up and accounted for as of this article’s publication.

“The war in Ukraine is not over yet. Action ensures everyone’s health,” began a video from Vanagas. “One million kits to Ukraine: from July 1, the composition of the first aid kit in our cars will change. Some of you will buy new medical kits, so I strongly ask you to bring your old kits to Circle K or Lidl. These organisations will collect them all and deliver them to Ukraine, both to the war zone and to civilians. Once again, please do this. Let’s help and once again unite and show that Ukraine’s war is also our war.”

Other ambassadors include UAB Elektrum Lietuva chair Martynas Giga and musician Andrius Mamontovas. Oleksii Arestovych, a former advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy‘s office, is also involved.

Lithuania, along with fellow Baltic states Latvia and Estonia, have been among Ukraine’s strongest supporters long before Russia began its full-scale invasion in February 2022. Besides providing humanitarian and military equipment help, the three countries are advocates for Ukraine joining the European Union and NATO. By the one-year mark of the invasion, Lithuanian military aid exceeded €400 million, and another €6 million is set to be added as part of a multinational air defence purchase.

The Lithuanian rally raid trio of Juknevičius, Vanagas, and Žala have individually contributed to the effort by supplying off-road vehicles to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Vanagas also donated funds accumulated from auctioning off pieces of his Toyota DKR Hilux T1+ that he wrecked at the Dakar Rally in January as well as autographed merchandise signed by winner Nasser Al-Attiyah. Some Michelin tyres that were used at Dakar even ended up on Ukrainian Army trucks.

While Juknevičius, a longtime Dakar veteran, skipped the 2023 edition as the aforementioned supply chain situation made it difficult for him to acquire a competitive vehicle, Vanagas and Žala adorned their cars with Ukrainian emblems. Both drivers retired from the race due to accidents, though they have continued the practice for their other racing endeavours in 2023.

Further information on the campaign can be found at its website.