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Medical kits for volunteers running field hospitals near Ukraine’s front line are in short supply as Russia prepares to launch a major push on Kyiv, a British former soldier said on Tuesday.
Shane Matthew, 34, an ex-sniper in Afghanistan, said vital fluids, emergency dressings and bandages were all insufficient to supply the 800 people he was working with to treat the civilian and military wounded, with the expected Russian advance on the capital.
“All of the vital equipment that we need, we don’t have,” he told The National, after a day of training Ukrainian dentists and neonatal clinic nurses on treating battlefield wounds.
“I have a supply convoy coming out on Wednesday, which probably doesn’t even contain half of what I need. I have more than 800 people that I need to kit out and it’s going to be a struggle.”
Russia's bombardment of Ukraine has edged closer to central Kyiv with a series of strikes hitting a residential area.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said four multi-storey buildings were struck, killing dozens of people. The US said Russian forces on Monday were about 15 kilometres from the centre of the city.
Fighting has intensified on Kyiv's outskirts in recent days. The early morning artillery strikes hit a district of western Kyiv, near the suburb of Irpin, which has seen some of the worst battles of the war.
Mr Matthew, who worked as a medical contractor in Iraq, said he was working closely with a Ukrainian military unit in and around Kyiv and Irpin.
He arrived in the capital on Thursday after travelling from the UK. He said he was not planning to take up arms because of the risk of prosecution on return to the UK.
Mr Matthew said the cold conditions meant training time was limited and the spring thaw was starting to turn some areas into a quagmire.
“The front line itself is absolutely terrifying,” he said. “It’s a to and fro of artillery fire. Day and night, it does not stop.
“I can’t even describe how heavy it is. It’s absolutely terrifying, even for me and I’m very seasoned at taking incoming – a lot of bombed-out buildings, a lot of bombed-out cars, a lot of bodies.”
Mr Matthew said he was the only overseas paramedic visiting the sites and carrying out training for the unit.
He said foreign volunteers without medical or military training should stay away.
“We’ve turned away so many since being here,” he said. “They’re just going to get people killed.”