Ukraine’s lifesavers

By Philippe Schockweiler

As the War against Ukraine drags on, civilians, engineers, activists and military tinkerers scramble together in Lviv to jump start the nation’s production of armoured vests to protect civilian and military population. This is the story of the Lviv Defense Cluster.

The Heroiv UPA Street in Lviv is bustling and these days the war seems far away. The city has been without an air raid alarm for almost a day and the streets are packed with people. Some of them flock to a nearby playground and fitness parkour in the small Sportyvny Maydanchyk park, most of them oblivious to the fact that the cement blocks around them house one of Ukraine’s most effective lifesavers. The renovated buildings are the home of the Lviv Defense Cluster (LDC), Ukraine’s most innovative producer of ballistic armour to protect the nation’s civilian and military personnel against the aggressor.

The offices however could belong to any company: There are modern computers and open spaces. But instead of a big meeting room there are rooms which houses bullet-proof plates that LDC has tested, meaning that they shot at it. Most of the plates failed the test, they feature eerie looking, haunting holes. The war against Ukraine has opened the floodgates for counterfeit plates from the Far East or European scammers that are available on almost every online retailer platform from Amazon to Ali Express. Especially Russian soldiers seem to fall for them, many of these blocks are retrieved from the ZSU (Armed Forces of Ukraine) and analysed by the experts in Lviv. Indeed, the armour provided by online retailers is often as useful as cardboard.

"Luxembourg?! Of course!"

Lëtzebuerger Journal is greeted in the headquarters of the Lviv Defense Cluster by Anton one of LDC’s communication specialists. "Ah finally someone from Luxembourg", he smiles while handing out hot tea. Luxembourg has made a name for itself in Ukraine. First this has to do with the considerable contributions by the Luxembourg government, the Ministry of Defence and the Army to provide the Ukrainian Army with Humvees (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle), anti-tank capacities and a lot of logistical equipment such as tents and drones. Ukrainian military experts and soldiers are aware of this fact, and proudly thank any Luxembourger they can get their hands on. But also from a civilian side, the Luxembourg-based NGO LUkraine asbl is known in Ukraine for their vast acts solidarity: "We have provided their drivers with our vests and they delivered some to the front! The donated ambulances from Luxembourg each are equipped with a couple of our vests", proudly explains Anton.

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