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A Tampa-based organization is planning to help American citizens escape from Ukraine

People walk in a subway to get a train as they leave the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday announced a military operation in Ukraine and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to "consequences you have never seen."
Emilio Morenatti/AP
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AP
People walk in a subway to get a train as they leave the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday announced a military operation in Ukraine and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to "consequences you have never seen."

As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine intensifies, members of a Tampa-based non-profit group are planning American rescue operations.

Project Dynamo, which consists mainly of military veterans, got its start earlier last year when it helped rescue Americans and their allies from Afghanistan after the U.S. military withdrew and Kabul fell under Taliban control.

Project co-founder Brian Stern said members from his group arrived in Kabul in the middle of chaos and attacks; this time, they arrived “early” in Ukraine — before full-scale hostilities break out.

READ MORE: Russia invades Ukraine; explosions are heard in Kyiv and other cities

Speaking from Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, the retired combat veteran said they are trying to start preparations early to avoid hysteria.

Stern explained that Poland and Romania are the only feasible countries that Ukraine borders that people could escape to during an evacuation.

“To the north is Belarus, which is the bad guys; and to the east is Russia, which are the bad guys; and to the south is the Russian navy, which are the bad guys,” he said “There's only one direction.”

Project Dynamo’s efforts come following the Biden administration’s repeated requests for American citizens to leave the country and the closure of the U.S. embassy in Kyiv.

Stern said his group is spreading information about the operation by encouraging Americans still there to meet at large monuments, like churches.

He added that they’re trying to work strategically.

“The Polish and the Romanians have said, ‘We can't afford a refugee crisis and if you're Ukrainian, no vacancy,’” he said. “So in the middle of all that is going to be a group of Americans trying to get through that mob scene, and it's going to be terrible.”

One issue Stern said he’s anticipating is more cyber-attacks.

“Russia has superior soft skills — meaning GPS jammers, cell phone jammers, taking down power grids, and misinformation,” he said, adding that they’re anticipating having to operate in a “communication-denied environment.”

Stern is adamant that if American citizens in Kyiv are scared, they should leave now if they are able to.

“Don't wait for Dynamo to rescue you, because I'm not gonna be able to rescue everybody,” he said.

For people in the Tampa Bay area looking to help, Stern encourages them to visit the Project Dynamo website, where they can donate or fill out a request for any friends or family they know who need help evacuating.

Copyright 2022 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7.

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