Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has expressed his sorrow and anger over the death of two foreign aid workers who were killed by a Russian anti-tank missile in the war-torn region of Donetsk on Sunday. He said the attack was a “barbaric act” that violated human rights and international law.
The aid workers, identified as Anthony Ignat of Canada and Emma Igual of Spain, were part of a team of volunteers from the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF). They were traveling in a van near the town of Chasiv Yar when they were hit by a shell fired from a Russian-controlled territory. The van flipped over and caught fire, trapping the occupants inside.
Two other volunteers, Mawick Ruben of Germany and Johan Mathias of Sweden, were seriously injured and are being treated in hospitals in Dnipro. Zelenskiy said he had spoken to the leaders of Canada, Spain, Germany and Sweden to express his condolences and solidarity.
“This Russian shelling once again confirms how close the war against Ukraine is to everyone in the world who truly values human life and who believes it is the common moral duty of humanity to stop terror and defeat evil,” Zelenskiy wrote on his Telegram channel.
MSF suspends its operations in eastern Ukraine after the incident
MSF, which has been providing medical assistance to civilians affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine since 2014, said it was shocked and saddened by the loss of its colleagues. It said it had suspended its operations in the region until further notice.
“We are devastated by this tragic incident, which took place while our colleagues were carrying out their humanitarian work. They were dedicated to helping people in need, regardless of their political views or affiliations,” MSF said in a statement.
MSF said it was working with the authorities to establish the facts and circumstances of the attack. It urged all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and ensure the safety and protection of civilians and humanitarian workers.
Ukraine continues its counteroffensive against Russian forces amid international support
The incident occurred amid a fierce battle between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists, who have been fighting for control of the Donbas region since 2014. Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and annexed Crimea, sparking international condemnation and sanctions.
In July 2023, Ukraine launched a major counteroffensive to reclaim its territory from Russia, which has deployed thousands of troops and heavy weapons along its border. The offensive has been met with fierce resistance from Russia, which has intensified its shelling and airstrikes on Ukrainian positions and civilian areas.
According to the United Nations, more than 14,000 people have been killed and over 1.5 million displaced by the conflict. The humanitarian situation in the region is dire, with millions of people facing shortages of food, water, medicine and electricity.
The United States and its allies have expressed their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and have provided military and economic assistance to Kyiv. They have also called on Russia to stop its aggression and abide by the 2015 Minsk agreements, which aim to end the violence and restore peace in eastern Ukraine.
However, Russia has rejected any dialogue with Ukraine or the international community, and has accused them of provoking a war. It has also threatened to use nuclear weapons if its “red lines” are crossed.