Ukrainian police said two British nationals, Andrew Bagshaw and Chris Barry, left the city of Kramatorsk at 8 a.m. on January 6 and headed east toward the front lines in Ukraine’s war with Russia.
Their mission, according to an aid worker familiar with the matter, was to evacuate an elderly woman in Solidar, a small town where Russian and Ukrainian forces were fighting a fierce battle.
They never returned.
Questions lingered about their fate until Tuesday, when Mr Barry’s family confirmed in a statement released through the UK Foreign Office that “our beloved Chrissie” and Mr Bagshaw had been killed “while attempting a humanitarian evacuation from Solidar”.
“His selfless determination to help the old, young and underprivileged out there has made us and his extended family very proud,” the statement said.
Mr Bagshaw’s parents said he believed the men’s car was hit by an artillery shell, although investigations are ongoing. Press Conference. They said they feared such an outcome, but were “very proud” of his work.
Mr. Bagshaw, 47, and Mr. Barry, 28, were part of an ad hoc group of foreigners with little or no combat experience who helped evacuate civilians from the front lines, acquaintances said. Many of the evictions of Mr. Barry and Mr. Bagshaw have been Documented by journalistsincluding Arnaud De Decker, who participated Footage of Mr. Barry in Bakhmut days before his disappearance.
Their deaths were a stark reminder of the danger facing those whose work has become a lifeline in Donbass, where many Ukrainians are trapped in some of Europe’s worst war zones since World War Two.
On January 6, the two men went to a really dangerous address, said Grzygorz Rybak, a fellow foreign volunteer who worked with the two men and lived with Mr. Bagshaw in Kramatorsk for two weeks. “And they didn’t come back.”
PMC Wagner, a notorious mercenary group fighting on behalf of Russia, claimed a week after its disappearance to have found the bodies of one of the men. The group posted pictures on Telegram of what appeared to be their passports, along with a certificate identifying Mr Barry as a volunteer with the Pavlo Vyshniakov Foundation, a Kyiv-based charity that sends resources including food and medical supplies to civilians, hospitals and the military. groups. The foundation declined to comment.
Wagner’s claim could not be verified at the time, and Russian state media has since claimed, without evidence, that the men were mercenaries.
The war in Ukraine is a humanitarian predicament. Conditions in some areas are too precarious for residents to survive, or for many international organizations to allow their staff to venture in, said Abe Stoddard, a humanitarian policy analyst.
So some of the more serious evacuations are being carried out by independent volunteers – “in other words, the people who have the least amount of resources to keep people safe,” Stoddard said.
Brian Stern, a US Army veteran who co-founded a humanitarian organization rescue operationHe described efforts to clear front lines in Ukraine as a “free-for-all”. He said that while foreign volunteers came to Ukraine with good intentions, “most of them have no idea what they are doing”.
“That’s the real reason this is such a sad story,” he said.
His family said that Mr. Barry was a software engineer who wanted to travel the world.
In early January, he told BBC local station In Cornwall, where he grew up, he “knew nothing” about Ukraine before the invasion but “became obsessed” with helping. Intending to enlist with foreign fighters, but having no combat experience, he instead bought a truck and started working as an evacuation driver last March.
in Instagram Mail Days after his arrival, Mr. Barry wrote that he was worried about a planned trip to Kharkiv because “everyone I’ve spoken to about this trip thinks there’s a very strong chance you’ll die.”
Mr Bagshaw was a British genetics researcher who was between jobs last spring in Christchurch, New Zealand, when he decided to go to Ukraine, writes a photojournalist he met at New Zealand Herald in October. His family told reporters he believed “it was the morally right thing to do.”
Their ad hoc operation was carried out largely by a small community of English speakers in Kramatorsk, said Mr Rybak, who translated for the volunteers. He said that neither Mr. Barry nor Mr. Bagshaw spoke Ukrainian or Russian.
Mr. Rybak said Ukrainians would contact local aid workers about relatives near Bakhmut, and their addresses would be passed on to volunteers, who would drive to the conflict zone to evacuate them, often in donated or crowd-funded vehicles. Ryback said the trips were unpredictable, with sometimes addresses vacant or residents resisting eviction.
The guys had plans for the aftermath of the war. Mr. Rybak remembers that Mr. Barry had a partner he wanted to marry, and Mr. Bagshaw wants to continue his scientific career.
He said, “They wanted to live.”
Thomas Gibbons Neff Contribute to the preparation of reports.
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