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The Rivne Oblast is in the West of Ukraine. Rocket attacks have killed people in the area, including in the city of Rivne, yet their location has spared the region from occupation by the Russian army.

Last month, workers from the Rivne Nuclear power plant travelled east to hand out aid in areas that had been occupied. Victoria Danylko, a power plant worker, said the villages they entered had been “cut off for weeks”.

“We were greeted with hugs and tears and thanked for literally every cake or cutlet. […] The villagers say they survived only because they had canned food, potatoes, and water.”

The Rivne workers are one example of how trade unions are providing vital aid to people in Ukraine. Members of the Federation of Trade Unions (FPU) and Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) have distributed supplies to residents throughout the war. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is now in its tenth week.

Workers from the Rivne region also visited the Sumy and Chernihiv Oblasts over the Easter weekend. Railway workers, miners, medical staff, and others are distributing food to Eastern cities like Kharkiv, which the Russian army has long had under siege. Activists have also delivered aid to shelters for the more than 7 million people who internally displaced in Ukraine.

Mykhailo Volynets, KVPU chairperson, visited the Chernihiv Oblast north of Kyiv. “There is a shortage of everything in liberated cities in the Chernihiv region”, he said. “For weeks people have been staying and starving in damp basements.”

Since Russia’s invasion began, many workers have joined Ukraine’s defence forces. Trade unions have been handing out bulletproof vests and other protective clothing to comrades who are now fighting.

One Rivne power plant worker, Yuri Khlyustin, said that visiting formerly occupied zones had “radically changed” many of his and volunteers’ attitudes to the war. “We passed villages where there is not a single surviving house, but Ukrainian flags are flying on their fences.”

“The locals, who survived the occupation stressed that after all Ukraine has experienced, it only needs a victory, and we have no right to agree to anything else.”

In the meantime, many trade unions are also working hard to offer members escape routes from the country. Ukraine’s Maritime and Transport Workers union has evacuated 250 people to neighbouring countries.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has launched an appeal for donations to support the FPU and KVPU’s humanitarian work.

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Image credit: UP9 – Creative Commons