Civilians and veterans helping evacuate Americans from Ukraine: 'Never leave an American behind'
A group of veterans and civilians who have spent the last six months helping Americans escape Afghanistan have now turned their attention to Ukraine after Russia launched an invasion of the eastern European country this week.
As soon as the Russian military started shelling the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Thursday morning, Project Dynamo executed a plan that had already been in the works for months.
"We had a group of people that were on the ground we had identified that wanted to get out, especially if things went sideways," James Judge, a spokesperson for the coalition of civilians and veterans known as Project Dynamo, told Fox News Digital on Thursday.
"Bryan Stern, who is on our team, could feel the explosions in Kyiv and said, ‘Alright, we need to go, we need to get out of here.’"
The first wave of Americans and lawful residents who escaped Kyiv on Thursday. (Project Dynamo)
About two dozen American citizens and lawful permanent residents were on the first Project Dynamo bus out of the city and the group is already planning more evacuations.
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The State Department told Americans in Ukraine to "depart immediately" on Feb. 12 and President Biden warned days later that there is no scenario in which he would send troops to rescue Americans.
"There's a benefit to [Project Dynamo] being made up of a lot of veterans and reserve military members who have experience dealing with these sorts of things, have experience working in special operations or intelligence or specifically exfiltrating people out of dangerous areas," Judge said.
"And when the Biden administration said that they weren't going to do it, it was kind of like, ‘Okay, here we go.’"
Project Dynamo was founded in August after the Taliban took over Kabul and has helped thousands of U.S. citizens and allies flee the war-torn country. Just last month, the group helped about two dozen U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents escape Afghanistan.
While the evacuation from Afghanistan is ongoing, Project Dynamo started planning to help Americans in Ukraine last year when rumblings of a Russian invasion began.
"We started putting boots on the ground in December," Judge said. "We had people back there in January, and then we've had people on the ground for the past two weeks in Kyiv."
KYIV, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 25: People look at the exterior of a damaged residential block hit by an early morning missile strike on Fe. 25, 2022, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Russia launched airstrikes on military bases on Thursday morning while ground troops moved into Ukraine, resulting in dozens of casualties on both sides.
Biden unveiled a raft of harsh new sanctions on Russian banks and state-owned businesses, saying that Putin "chose this war."
Americans and lawful residents who need help getting out of Ukraine can contact Project Dynamo on their website and contact the State Department by filling out an assistance request form.
"Our mindset is never leave an American behind," Judge said.