14:19 Apr. 20, 2016
More than 50 servicemen, wounded in the war in eastern Ukraine, were treated in Lithuania last year
Eleven Ukrainian soldiers, injured whilst fighting Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, have departed to Vilnius for medical treatment.
In Kharkiv airport, the servicemen were sent off by Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak, who thanked Lithuanian authorities and medics for on-going support. According to Poltorak, more than 50 Ukrainians were treated and rehabilitated in Lithuanian clinics last year, and already 15 soldiers this year.
"Two years of war taught our medics to perform excellent surgeries, our doctors made a huge step forward. But we still have a long way to go in rehabilitation practices. A lot of work needs to be done for these people, for their smooth transition from war to peaceful life," the Defence Minister said.
The soldiers, who received basic medical assistance in Kharkiv, will undergo further surgeries in Lithuania and get prosthetic care.
Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak gives an award to a soldier before he departs to Lithuania for treatment (Photo by Ministry of Defence of Ukraine)
Lithuania has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine since the Kremlin began attempts to destabilise the country through its seizure of the Crimean Peninsula and by backing militants in the Donbas region.
"We remember the events of 1991 when Soviet tanks attacked our parliament and our citizens. And then Ukrainians stood alongside Lithuanians. Now Ukraine is fighting for our common values and our independence. That is why we supported, are supporting and will continue to support Ukraine in its just cause," Lithuania's Defence Minister, Juozas Olekas said.
Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak, left, and Lithuania's Defence Minister, Juozas Olekas, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on April 19, 2016 (Photo by Ministry of Defence of Ukraine)
This year Lithuanian hospitals plan to treat more than 50 injured Ukrainian soldiers at their own expense.