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Injured Ukraine war veterans run Brussels 20km to inspire others

15:16 27/05/2023

Ukrainian war veteran Roman Kashpur will be among those lining up for the Brussels 20km run this Sunday.

His participation is remarkable, because he was badly injured in the conflict with Russia and had to have one of his lower legs amputated.

He now gets by with the support of a prosthetic limb - but that has not deterred him from entering the city’s big annual charity run this weekend.

Kashpur, 27, will line up for the 20km run alongside two other veterans of the war: 40-year-old Yurii Kozlovskyi, whose right leg was seriously injured during the conflict with Russia and who also now relies on an artificial limb for his mobility, and 30-year-old Yurii Tsyntylevych, who suffered serious injuries while trying to defend Luhansk airport back in 2014.

The three veterans said they were so determined not to allow their personal anguish to prevent them from taking part in sport, including the 20km.

Kashpur, a father of two, told The Bulletin: "I turned to sport after what happened to me and it has helped me very significantly, not least with the psychological damage. It has helped me find a true meaning to life."

He is particularly proud of recently becoming the first ever veteran from the Ukraine war to complete the London marathon.

Kashpur, who first joined the Ukraine forces as a volunteer at the age of 19, said: “The 20km is not a marathon but it is still a significant distance and we hope to raise as much as possible.”

Proceeds from their participation on Sunday will go to the Citizen Charity Foundation, which aids veterans injured in the war.

Kozlovskyi added: "The message I hope our participation in the 20km will give others is that you should never lose your spirit for life.

"I hope this will be an inspiration to others who find themselves in a similar situation. There are not just thousands, but likely millions, who will be injured, some badly, in this war."

Tsyntylevych, too, said sport had helped him deal with the fallout of what happened. In his case, he has since run two half marathons and a virtual version of the London marathon.

"It is not just the finishing line we are all hoping to make on Sunday. We are also here to raise funds for a charity which helps wounded veterans like us," he said.

All three said they hoped that Ukraine can follow the lead of other countries, such as the UK, which have well-established programmes to rehabilitate injured servicemen and women.

“We owe it to veterans who have selflessly protected Ukraine and Europe from Russia’s war to ensure they receive the support and assistance they need to transition back into civilian life and overcome the challenges they face as a result of their service,” said Yana Brovdiy, volunteer of Promote Ukraine and initiator of the visit.

“The visit of Ukrainian veterans to Brussels is a strong show of support for the welfare of Ukrainian veterans. Their involvement in the visit and the upcoming run will undoubtedly add a compelling voice to the conversation around veteran affairs.”

Their visit to Brussels is part of the efforts to raise awareness about the well-being and rehabilitation programmes for wounded Ukrainian defenders.

Kashpur, Kozlovskyi and Tsyntylevych are visiting Brussels to share information on the current situation faced by Ukrainian veterans.

Photo: Anastasia Varvarina

Written by Martin Banks