*** ----> Latvia sends cars seized from drunk drivers to Ukraine | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Latvia sends cars seized from drunk drivers to Ukraine

AFP | Riga 

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

Latvian drunk drivers are making an important -- if not entirely voluntary -- contribution to helping Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion. In a parking lot outside the capital Riga, some 100 cars confiscated from drunk drivers are being repaired and adapted before being sent to the front line in Ukraine.

In a nifty move to combat both endemic drunk driving at home and support Kyiv, Latvian authorities are handing seized vehicles over to the Ukrainian military.

Some are even being armoured and turned into medevacs to evacuate wounded soldiers. The former Soviet republic -- now a member of NATO and the European Union -- is one of Ukraine's most reliable supporters and a staunch critic of neighbouring Russia.

The Baltic nation has signed a 10-year security deal with Kyiv and led initiatives to deliver thousands of drones to its embattled army.

With cars seized from drunk drivers piling up in police parking lots, the government has also authorised donating them to the Ukrainian army. "Each weekend we deliver around 30 to 40 cars from Latvia to Ukraine," said Reinis Poznaks, founder of the non-profit Agendum, which drives the vehicles up to 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) to hand over the vehicles.

'Dire need of cars' Latvia used to only fine drink drivers, but since late 2022 drunk-driving has been classified as a felony and is punishable with prison. Drivers' vehicles are now also confiscated.

Almost half of the cars donated by Poznaks's organisation are confiscated from drunk drivers, he said, adding that others are donated by people to support Ukraine or companies handing over their old vehicles.

So far, a total of 1,500 seized vehicles have been sent to the Ukrainian military or its municipalities. "We are in dire need of more cars for the front line," said a Latvian paramedic who helped Ukraine on the ground in the first days of the invasion.

The medic, who goes by the codename "Dnipro Ghost", told AFP that as the war drags on, circumstances have only become more desperate.

"Previously we wanted to choose mostly off-road cars or SUVs", he said. "Currently we are happy with any car that is able to carry the wounded." "By helping Ukraine, Latvia and the rest of Europe are helping ourselves," said Poznaks.