We won’t let them get away with it

A batch of humanitarian aid from the USA worth 33.6 million hryvnias disappeared in Lviv
25 July 2023

«I hope if the freight is lost, law enforcement will be able to find it», – assured Yurii Kholod, deputy head of Lviv Regional Council in spring last year when he commented on incidents of humanitarian aid being lost. After the Russian invasion started, Lviv oblast, like other border areas, was receiving tens of trucks with humanitarian aid every day. First it was brought to rented warehouses and then transported to the recipients. Likely, the immense time pressure could have caused logistical inaccuracies and confusion with destinations.

However, the story we want to tell you is about something different. What we mean is a real-life case when 10,000 IFAKs worth 33.6 million hryvnias that volunteers purchased and send for the Ukrainian Armed Forces just vanished.

As NGL.media found, this mysterious story clearly shows the traces of Lviv Regional Military Administration and some charity foundations it’s cooperating with.

An attractive offer

After Russian invasion in February 2022 Ukrainian diaspora in the USA actively started helping Ukrainians. While the authorities of two countries were negotiating about weapons supply, common US citizens were buying and sending military uniforms, medical supplies and other support for the Ukrainian Armed Forces and civilians. United Ukrainian American Relief Committee (UUARC) became one of the largest assistance-oriented organizations.

United Ukrainian American Relief Committee (UUARC) is a non-profit organization founded in 1944 in order to provide help to Ukrainians scattered throughout the world after the World War II. UUARC is providing humanitarian aid, education and immigrant programs in the US. Currently UUARC is helping Ukrainians who became victims of Russians and is sending humanitarian aid for the military and civilians. Active representatives of Ukrainian diaspora in the USA are members of the organisation. The foundation receives the largest part of the donations from benefactors in diaspora community, as well as from US citizens of different origin.

According to Nestor Zarichnyi, head of UUARC, for the 18 months of war they sent more than 30 sea containers with humanitarian aid. Local charity foundations UUARC is cooperating with are responsible for allocating these resources in Ukraine. For instance, in Lviv it’s the «Center of Volunteer Activity and Protection».

The cooperation looked as follows: UUARC representatives were buying and packaging the necessary aid in the USA, paid for delivery to Ukraine where the freight would be received by the representatives of the «Center of Volunteer Activity and Protection». Then they sorted the aid, distributed it and reported on its distribution, and representatives of the US foundation were conducting periodical on-site inspections.

According to Nestor Zarichnyi, the cost of delivering one sea container from the USA to Ukraine is $ 8,000-10,000. The logistics is neither simple nor cheap, but it was the only option, according to Nestor Zarichnyi.

So, no wonder when the possibility of free delivery turned up in October 2022, it provoked interest. Liliia Tashchuk, a US citizen of Ukrainian origin contacted UUARC saying she cooperates with Lviv Regional Military Administration (Lviv RMA) and the latter would be able to cover the cost of delivering the aid to Lviv.

According to Motria Boiko-Waters, UUARC CEO, some UUARC members already knew Liliia Tashchuk as volunteer and a representative of Ukrainian diaspora.

Nashi Groshi. Lviv became NGL.media

«She said it was possible to reach an agreement with Lviv RMA and send several containers at their expense. We agreed with her that this aid was to be delivered to our regular recipients, the «Volunteering and Help Center» foundation. It seemed that we understood each other well», Motria Boiko-Waters told NGL.

Liliia Tashchuk lives in Clayton, North Carolina. As of last year, she was working as a regional sales director for medical equipment at S2S Global. An article can be found in the local press where she is referred to as a volunteer who is helping to send the aid to Ukraine. According to her, the US and European businessmen are helping to deliver freights and they are doing it free of charge.

«Then my family in Lviv, in the West of Ukraine, contacts Lviv Military Administration that collects everything in Poland and takes it to Lviv», said Tashchuk.

When Liliia Tashchuk is talking about her family, most likely she means a charity foundation «Intelligent Organisation» from Lviv founded in May 2022. The charity’s founder is Ihor Bialko who calls her a sister in a video where they are together. We will discuss this foundation and Ihor Bialko some more later.

So, in October last year UUARC agreed with Liliia Tashchuk about transportation of a container і dimensions of a standard 20-feet sea container: 6,096 mm (length) х 2,370 mm (width) х 2,591 mm (height), internal capacity 34 m3 . The point of contact that was supposed to meet the freight in Lviv was Nataliia Shelestak, a deputy of local city council and member of the «Volunteering and Help Center» foundation.

Judging from the accompanying documents that NGL.media has, on October 14 the container with humanitarian aid departed from Wilmington port in North Carolina towards Antwerpen in Belgium. The container was filled with the aid to Ukrainian soldiers – gas masks, sleeping bags, winter uniforms and boots. There also were 9,700 military IFAKs і NATO standard individual first-aid kit to provide first aid in the battlefield. IFAK contents follows the standard and consists of hemostatic tools including one or two tourniquets, airways management equipment, chest seals, bandages, desinfectants etc. worth $1.1 million.

Tactical IFAK (photo by UUARC)

«The IFAKs were the most valuable part of this freight», explained Andrii Nemyrovskyi, head of the «Volunteering and Help Center» to NGL. According to Nestor Zarichnyi from UUARC, these IFAKs alone cost US volunteers $908,600.

Nestor Zarichnyi and Motria Boiko-Waters claim that as per agreement with Liliia Tashchuk the entire freight was supposed to be delivered to the «Volunteering and Help Center» in Lviv. Still, from the minute the freight was given to Liliia Tashchuk, strange things started happening to it.

«We sent the container and were waiting for the information about delivery, but there was none. Finally, on November 8 acquaintances sent us a link to the press release published by Lviv Regional Military Administration. It said Lviv RMA gave some aid to the military. Among the things that were in the photo we recognized the gas masks I personally bought and sent to Ukraine», says Nestor Zarichnyi.

The post from Lviv RMA dated November 3 indeed states that the administration received the aid from the USA – winter uniforms and gas masks. The freight was supposedly given by the «American partners and a team of volunteers that organize the delivery: CF «IO»/ Charity Foundation «Intelligent Organisation», Liliia Tashchuk, Ihor Bialko». There isn’t a single word about UUARC in Lviv RMA’s post.

Charity foundation «Intelligent Organisation» was founded by Ihor Bialko from Lviv in May last year. There are two references to this foundation on Lviv RMA’s official website: the one about handing over the aid from UNISEF in Brody, in addition to the above.

Founder of charity foundation «Intelligent Organisation», Ihor Bialko, 35 is dealing in employing Ukrainians abroad – he and his friend Ivan Dancha і Ivan Dancha is also a moderator of «Intelligent Organisation» Facebook group are founders of the company Est-Ukraine offering work for guest workers in the EU countries.

Strange logistics

When Americans learned that their freight didn’t get to their partners, but directly to Lviv RMA, they started investigating what had happened.

«Back then I didn’t worry at all, for I thought that if our freight accidentally ended up with Lviv RMA, we’ll submit an application and the freight will be returned to us, that it’s not a problem. I started reassuring Motria [Boiko-Waters] from UUARC. Still, the further the situation was unravelling the more shocked I was. So now I’m ashamed of myself before the donors for trying to justify the administration’s behaviour.

According to Lviv volunteers, Lviv RMA gave them spoken confirmation of receiving only a small part of humanitarian aid. And tactical IFAKs, the most valuable part of the freight, presumably weren’t there.

Contents of tactical IFAK (photo by UUARC)

«We learned that Yurii Kholod, [deputy head of Lviv regional council] is the one put in charge of humanitarian aid by the regional authorities. So, we contacted him. He promised to deal with this matter, Andrii Nemyrovskyi from the «Volunteering and Help Center» told NGL. After this we had an online talk with the Americans in which Kholod said that Lviv Regional Military Administration did receive our freight, but, firstly, almost all of it have been distributed, and secondly, there were no IFAKs. Still, he assured we will be given [acceptance and transfer] certificate to the aid that Lviv RMA already distributed».

However, volunteers never received any documents even for the part of the freight that Kholod confirmed receiving. And we can only guess what destiny befell the IFAKs.

«We were waiting for the acceptance certificates for a week or so, but we received none. Then I was given a contact of Roman Kalahurskyi from Lviv RMA, and he gave me a contact of Oleksii Shevchuk, coordination for humanitarian headquarters for Lviv RMA who was supposed to provide these reports. When I came to him, he refused to five me the documents claiming it’s a state secret and I need to give him written permits both from [the head of Lviv RMA] Maksym Kozytskyi and UUARC, and many more other documents. So, I never received any reports,» says Andrii Nemyrovskyi.

The US donors decided to contact the customs to find out when their freight had crossed the Ukrainian border. The answer caused even more confusion.

When we started investigating the route of the container, the Polish customs confirmed that on November 1 it crossed «Medyka-Szeginie» checkpoint. However, Ukrainian custom officers claim that they never received this container», says Nataliia Shelestak.

NGL.media editorial team send Lviv RMA the number of that container to receive the information about it and the certificates on the aid handed over. However, similar to the customs, they denied ever receiving this container.

So, the situation looks as follows: the freight was delivered to the Polish-Ukrainian border checkpoint and even registered by the Polish customs. After that something happened to it, it was unsealed and for unknown reasons part of the things ended up at Lviv RMA’s warehouse and the rest of them just disappeared.

Roman Kalahurskyi і Roman Kalahurskyi has been the head of «LvivGaz» since June 2023 , head of capital construction department was the one in charge of humanitarian logistics at LVIV RA last year. We tried to investigate the details about the freight, but he claimed he didn’t remember well.

«If I remember correctly, we went to a customs warehouse in Medyka, Poland, looked for volunteers there and reloaded everything manually, for there were some problems with the documents», Roman Kalahurskyi explained to NGL.media, refusing to clarify the nature of the problems.

Лілія Тащук, Іван Данча та Ігор Б'ялко у місті Сіракузи, США (фото за квітень 2023 року)

Liliia Tashchuk, Ivan Dancha and Ihor Bialko in Syracuse town, USA (photo from April 2023)

Liliia Tashchuk, Ivan Dancha and Ihor Bialko in Syracuse town, USA (photo from April 2023)

He also confirmed he had contacted Ihor Bialko from «Intelligent Organisation» regarding this freight, but he could remember nothing about him except that Bialko is a «young boy».

Ihor Bialko never responded to any phone calls or messages in the messengers from NGL.media. And last time he reached out to Nataliia Shelestak was several months ago.

«He could say nothing to the point and he didn’t give a single clear answer to my questions, constantly changing the topic. And then he stopped making contact altogether», says Shelestak.

NGL.media journalist was trying to receive a comment from Ihor Bialko, Ivan Dancha and Liliia Tashchuk for several weeks. All the phone numbers we managed to get were out of reach. They also ignored numerous written requests from our editorial team. When Ivan Dancha read a message from NGL.media, he deleted almost all information about himself from his Facebook page і When Ivan Dancha read a message from NGL.media, he deleted almost all information about himself from his Facebook page. .

CF «Intelligent Organisation»’s Facebook page stopped being updated in April 2023. Judging from the last posts, all founders and members of this organization were in the USA at that point in time.

IFAKs trace

NGL.media obtained the evidence of the fact that palettes with the peculiar marking used for the vanished IFAKs were indeed present at one of Lviv warehouses that Lviv RMA was using.

In late November a warehouse in Zemelna street in Lviv received another container from UUARC. Lviv RMA informed Andrii Dyda, UUARC representative, that he may collect this humanitarian aid. Andrii Dyda is convinced he saw boxed with the vanished IFAKs in the warehouse.

«When I was loading my vehicle, I saw there were still some palettes with UUARC emblem in the warehouse. The warehouse workers told me it was their freight, and I didn’t know any details, so I took only what was given to me. Later the US counterparts sent me a photo of palettes with the vanished IFAKs from the first container, and in the photo I recognized what I had seen there in the warehouse», Andrii Dyda told NGL. He specified he didn’t look inside the palettes, so he can’t state for sure they weren’t empty.

NGL.media managed to obtain the expenditure invoice used by Lviv RMA to give Andrii Dyda humanitarian aid from the warehouse in Zemelna street. The document contains the seal of «Chystyi Kyiv» charity foundation і NGL.media found similar invoices when working at the investigation about «Shliakh» information system .

We’d like to remind that «Chystyi Kyiv» was involved in NGL.media investigation on abuse of Lviv RMA’s permits to go abroad through the «Shliakh» information system. According to the information we have, «Chystyi Kyiv» received 385 permits for the military aged men to leave the country, 39 of which (including Maksym Tkachyk, 37, the nominal founder and head of NGO «Chystyi Kyiv», never returned to Ukraine). At present the organization is not operating and there’s no one to comment on its activity.

Where does Lviv RMA’s humanitarian aid go?

In early July 2023 NGL.media journalists visited Lviv RMA’s warehouse in Zemelna street to talk to the representatives of humanitarian center about the vanished humanitarian aid. However, the guards informed us that Lviv RMA’s warehouse is no longer there, and Rostyslav Petsukh, the warehouse owner, clarified that the military administration moved out quite a while ago, in the beginning of this year.

Andrii Hodyk, first deputy head of Lviv Regional Military Administration informed NGL.media that the administration is hardly receiving any humanitarian aid at the moment. «We receive several times less humanitarian aid than we used to. So, all the addresses Lviv RMA was using before in fact aren’t used anymore,» Hodyk said.

Besides, Andrii Hodyk claims that the Coordination center on humanitarian aid provision headed by Oleksii Shevchuk і Oleksii Shevchuk, a lawyer from Kyiv is known as an ex-partner of Barristers bar association. For a year he was the head of Lviv RMA’s coordination HQ for humanitarian aid provision created in early March 2022. As a lawyer, Oleksii Shevchuk represented many notorious individuals in high-profile cases: Hennadii Korban, Illia Kyva, Yaroslav Kashuba, Yaroslav Dubnevych and others which was using the warehouse in Zemelna street was never legally registered as Lviv RA subsidiary, so the administration was not liable for anything that had been happening there.

«Perhaps, it was Shevchuk’s private initiative, I don’t know. Lviv RMA doesn’t have such legal entity or cooperation with a legal entity through coordination humanitarian center […]. There has never been one within the structural department of Lviv regional administration», said Hodyk.

He was unable to explain why press releases in the official website of Lviv RMA mentioned the coordination humanitarian center’s association with the regional administration, and Oleksii Shevchuk was introduced as the head of Lviv RMA’s humanitarian HQ.

Oleksii Shevchuk (freeze-frame from official YouTube channel of Lviv RMA)

Moreover, Oleksii Shevchuk was personally introducing himself as the head of Lviv RMA’s humanitarian HQ who had been offered a job by Yurii Kholod, deputy head of Lviv Regional Council. No representative of regional council ever publicly denied such statements Shevchuk was making.

Sometime later Andrii Hodyk in response to NGL.media’s written request informed us that Lviv RMA did cooperate with Oleksii Shevchuk – however, not through the Coordination center on humanitarian aid provision, but through «Chystyi Kyiv», as it was Shevchuk who represented this organization.

«On 06 April 2022 the Memorandum of understanding was signed with this individual, Oleksii Shevchuk, who in the period between 18 May 2022 and 21 March 2023 was a freelance advisor on humanitarian aid and volunteer activity to the head of regional military administration», Andrii Hodyk informed.

The memorandum of cooperation with Oleksii Shevchuk that Hodyk refers to was personally signed by Maksym Kozytskyi, head of Lviv RMA.

NGL.media contacted Oleksii Shevchuk asking questions about the US humanitarian aid, but he gave no answers. We also asked him our questions through his colleague, and he ignored these as well.

We also tried to find out what had happened to almost 10,000 vanished IFAKs with Yurii Kholod і Yurii Kholod, 31 is present acting head of Lviv Regional Council; before that he was a deputy head of regional council and in 2019-2020 he was working as a deputy head of Lviv Regional State Administration – headed first by Markiian Malskyi and then by Maksym Kozytskyi. Since the spring 2022 Yurii Kholod was responsible for humanitarian aid logistics in the oblast and reported that in mass media multiple times , the present acting head of Lviv Regional Council, who, according to volunteers, played an important role in this story.

«Roman Horodechnyi [member of the «Volunteering and Help Center» foundation] asked me to establish communication between them and the foreign donors who were sending aid. I organized a Zoom call for them to directly clarify everything about the freight. I don’t know what where the further developments in the case», reads Yurii Kholod’s statement that he passed to NGL.media through his assistant.

Нові документи у справі підпільного складу в УбиняхNGL.media знайшли підтвердження, що там могли ховати товари Міноборони

Kholod’s statement doesn’t seem too logical, because members of UUARC and «Volunteering and Help Center» are well acquainted. «We’ve been cooperating for a long time, we’re personally acquainted with Nestor Zarichnyi and constantly keep in touch with Motria [Boiko-Waters]», confirms Nataliia Shelestak.

What’s next?

Both UUARC representatives and Lviv volunteers have been trying to receive answers from Yurii Kholod and Roman Kalahutskyi about the vanished humanitarian aid for a long time, but failed, complains Nataliia Shelestak.

«They keep inventing new versions», she says. «Still, they couldn’t claim they received nothing, because we made screenshots of their posts with our humanitarian aid. So, they started saying it wasn’t them, but «Chystyi Kyiv» that had received this aid».

In November 2022 the management of the US foundation UUARC went to the police in the USA and Ukraine. The investigation in this case is ongoing, and searches of the warehouse in Zemelna street were conducted as a part of investigation. We also know that the Security Service of Ukraine took an interest in this case.

«Do you understand what 10,000 IFAKs mean? They mean thousands of saved lives. And we won’t let them get away with it» says Nestor Zarichnyi from UUARC.