From Omagh to Ukraine: The Northern Ireland bomb disposal expert volunteering in the Donbas region
By UTV correspondent Gareth Wilkinson
In the Donbas region of Ukraine, an Omagh man narrowly escaped injury as a Russian shell exploded just metres from his jeep.
Jonathan Baynard is in the war torn country helping to evacuate civilians from homes along the front line as the Russian Army closes in.
Despite coming under artillery attack, Jonathan and his team rescued 62 men, women and children.
The civilians have been brought to safety.
Speaking to UTV from an undisclosed location, Jonathan says it is dangerous but life saving work.
“I’d seen an artillery shell just burst right in front of us, throw splinters and pieces of a house all around the place and I questioned myself but at the end of the day when there were little boys and girls and they are not screaming anymore that gives me a purpose.”
The 33-year-old is part of an international team of volunteers who are bomb disposal experts.
They’ve also been defusing and destroying munitions dropped by the Russian Army.
Jonathan previously worked with a charity in Latvia locating the bodies of missing soldiers and clearing old bombs on the battle fields of World War One and Two.
When fighting began in Ukraine, he transferred his skills to a modern war zone.
He was asked to join an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team and signed up.
Now they’re in the eastern Donbas region where fighting is intense.
“It’s a real megamix of guys all with the same intentions. Mitigate risks, try and save lives, pull people out.
Jonathan regularly comes under fire.
At times Russian soldiers have been little more than a few hundred metres away.
Jonathan says the war is a humanitarian disaster.
“I think it’s a human tragedy. It should not be happening, this act of aggression should be on everyone’s focus everywhere because it is inhuman and horrible.”
Jonathan’s family still live in Omagh.
He says they understand his reasons for going to Ukraine.
He doesn’t expect to return home soon.
“As long as the Ukrainians need me I’ll be here. I’m here for the long haul.”
Jonathan has appealed to the rest of the world not to forget the horror of what is happening in Ukraine.
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