Estonia is sending 12 more buses to Ukraine, having done so already in June. The buses had previously been in service on domestic routes in Estonia, and are being sent to the Zhytomyr Oblast, one of the worst-hit areas of Ukraine in the current conflict.
Foreign Minster Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said that he was: "Delighted that in cooperation with several agencies and companies, we can offer practical assistance with the buses that departed today, as it is urgently needed."
The vehicles are being sent in response to a request from Zhytomyr Oblast, west of Kyiv, and follow Estonia's response earlier this summer to Ukraine's appeal to select focus regions in reconstruction assistance.
Ukrainian Ambassador to Estonia Mariana Betsa said: "We are grateful to the government, companies and people of Estonia for the invaluable assistance to Ukraine."
"Estonia was among the first countries to respond to the call for assistance in rebuilding Ukraine and is concentrating on Zhytomyr," Ambassador Betsa went on, via a foreign ministry press release.
Today we with Estonian Transport Administration & @EconMinEstonia said bon voyageto 3⃣ buses that began their journey to Zhytomyr in #Ukraine. Next week 9⃣ more will go to Zhytomyr in order to help restore their transport services that have perished in Russia's brutal war. pic.twitter.com/oW9jrWQUo0— Estonian MFA | #StandWithUkraine (@MFAestonia) September 24, 2022
The buses are Iveco Irisbus Crossway models, that had previously operated on routes in Estonia and are known colloquially as "cloud buses".
Three of the 12 buses set off for Zhytomyr today, Saturday, while the remainder will depart Estonia next week.
The project was co-organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Estonian Transport Administration and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and is aimed at helping Zhytomyr restore its infrastructure and daily lives, despite Russia's continued aggression.
"I hope these buses help the people of the Zhytomyr Oblast reach their destinations safely," he said. Reinsalu went on.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Riina Sikkut noted that five buses had already been sent from Estonian to the Bucha region near Kyiv in June, and thanked all companies and personnel involved in getting the project going.
Ele Reiljan, acting director general of the Transport Administration said the authority, which could have more easily simply sold off the vehicles, was: "Happy that the buses that had been running in Estonia can get a new lease of life thanks to skilled workers, and can continue their service for the good of the people of Ukraine in a region that needs it most urgently."
Bruno Kubja, Managing Director of Iveco IV Pluss, added:"When the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested we could help out with preparing the buses for going to Ukraine, we immediately agreed. Thanks to the low repair charge and spare parts we offered, more buses were repaired than had initially been planned."
Lux Charter drivers will ferry the buses to Zhytomyr Oblast; Jaanus Kukk, Lux Charter board chair, noted that the company had already helped transport refugees fleeing Ukraine, bringing around 3,000 people safely to Estonia, in cooperation with the Estonian Refugee Council, during that time.
Estonia has so far provided €21 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, €2.2 million from the public sector and the remainder from the private and third sectors.
The aid has included food, temporary shelters, medicines, ambulances, rescue equipment and IT devices, among other much needed items, the foreign ministry says.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs