Americans donate body armor, ammunition for Ukraine


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When Texas marketing executive Bret Starr asked colleagues in Ukraine what they needed after Russia’s invasion, he got a surprise.

“You know, it was guns, bullets body armor,” said Starr, for whom Respect.Studio in western Ukraine provides social marketing services. 

A Belarusian volunteer speaks by phone as he receives military training at the Belarusian Company base in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. Hundreds of Belarus’ emigrants citizens have arrived in Ukraine to help the Ukrainian army fight against Russian invaders. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The young digital marketers at Respect.Studio, part of Ukraine’s huge technology services-outsourcing sector, said they were organizing a territorial defense squad.

The Fort Worth businessman knew he could not send guns, but he discovered he could legally ship body armor helmets.

Starr expects to send the first 20 sets of helmets bullet-proof vests to Respect.Studio this week, followed by up to 2,000 more through donations of cash gear.

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“We’re worried about the people that we’ve been on video calls with for two years,” said Starr, who owns The Starr Conspiracy marketing agency.

He is among Americans collecting thousands of sets of body armor, pledging millions of rounds of ammunition even trying to donate guns in response to Ukraine’s pleas for military aid. 

A joint funeral takes place at 'Saint's Peter Paul Garrison Church', for two soldiers who died in the east of the country during recent fighting

A joint funeral takes place at ‘Saint’s Peter Paul Garrison Church’, for two soldiers who died in the east of the country during recent fighting
(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

“Volunteers here raise funds to buy the needed (body) armor, but there’s a lack of supply,” said Oleksii Sysak, a LinkedIn specialist marketer at Respect.Studio in Lviv, Ukraine.

“I NEED AMMUNITION”

American donors are running into U.S. foreign export licenses requirements for equipment like modern bulletproof vests, firearms ammunition.

Some are partnering with Ukrainian relief groups to get past export hurdles.

Starr is shipping his vests through the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council, a non-profit group that is licensed to do so, he said.

In New York state, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office on Monday gave around 450 pieces of body armor to the Long Island-Ukraine Emergency Response Drive.

Remington Ammunition, other units of U.S. company Vista Outdoor (VSTO.N), on Friday said they would donate one million rounds of ammunition to the Ukraine Armed Forces.

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Ammo Inc CEO Fred Wagenhals on Tuesday said Ukraine had approved his company’s donation of one million rounds, which were in Poland.

The Arizona munitions company made the offer after President Volodymyr Zelenskiy famously quipped, “I need ammunition, not a ride,” in response to a U.S. evacuation offer. 

A member of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces during training

A member of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces during training
(Photographer: Ethan Swope/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“So we sent him ammo,” said Wagenhals. And in what may be the United States’ only gun drive for Ukraine, New York’s Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman has launched a bid to collect semi-automatic rifles shotguns.

The Republican politician said he had gathered over 50 donated firearms was working with federal authorities to overcome export barriers.

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“We want to make sure they have the weapons they need to defend their homes,” said Blakeman.



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