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The Lithuania-Poland line… the difficult supply route to Ukraine

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There were no passport agents on the road, no customs lanes, no signs of a piece of land that had become the secret gateway to military supplies from Ukraine.

“No photos, no photos,” a Polish border guard shouted as a 17-truck convoy stopped one morning this week before crossing into Ukraine.

Not far from that place is a Ukrainian military base, where at least 35 people died a few days ago as a result of Russian shelling, and no one wants to draw attention to this particular border crossing.

He asked Washington Post reporters to turn off the GPS function on their cameras before crossing into Ukraine.

Containing 45 vehicles — modified jeeps, ambulances, an armored truck and an army field kitchen — plus 24 tons of diesel, the convoy traveled overnight from Lithuania as part of a bloated supply network rushing to Ukraine.

There were more than 12 volunteer drivers, including one whose relief work was limited to helping cyclists stuck on the road, driving around the clock to meet the Ukrainian fighters in time.

The Washington Post reported that while governments trade combat helicopters and advanced weapons systems, soldiers in the field are struggling to meet more basic needs.

With Ukrainian factories closed due to shelling, troops are increasingly relying on supply chains and volunteering for critical equipment, including bulletproof vests, medical supplies, pickup trucks and SUVs they want to use as combat vehicles.

A second truck was due to arrive later that day, loaded with generators, radios, surveillance drones, night vision equipment and, most importantly, some 7,000 bulletproof vests and helmets, which are a lifesaver for soldiers.

“This is what we need most,” said Lt. Andrei Bystrik, one of several Ukrainian fighters who have traveled across the war-torn country to receive convoys, as tears well up as he spoke about the influx of aid from neighboring countries. .

He added: “From the army we get weapons, ammunition and uniforms. But what we eat, what keeps us safe, how we move and fight… that comes from the people; our people and foreigners.”

The journey began hundreds of miles north of a warehouse in Lithuania, a country not generally considered a hub for military supplies.

But this small Baltic country has seen such an influx of support for Ukraine that the capital, Vilnius, is awash in blue and yellow Ukrainian flags.

Much of the money donated goes to Blue and Yellow, a nonprofit organization founded in 2014 to supply Ukrainians fighting separatists in eastern Ukraine. Now the group is considered a focal point in the process of supporting Ukrainians.

Swedish-born filmmaker Jonas Uhmann, who founded the group, said he was unpaid and staffed for years, meeting the demands of front-line units with an annual budget of less than $200,000.

Since the start of the war last month, more than $20 million has flowed out of Lithuania, home to 2.8 million people. He sends a convoy to the Ukraine every four or five days.

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