'He was my friend': Canadian volunteer reportedly killed in Ukraine by Russian attack

CHASIV YAR, Ukraine — Several aid organizations in Ukraine say that a volunteer Canadian aid worker was killed Saturday morning by a Russian attack.

In an Instagram post, humanitarian group Road to Relief said Anthony "Tonko" Ihnat was killed while travelling in a vehicle with three other volunteers with the organization.

Another group, called Brave to Rebuild, posted a tribute to Ihnat on X, formerly known as Twitter. The post said the 58-year-old Ontario man was a joyful, caring, and hardworking man who loved the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Taisia Orikhovska, a coordinator with Brave to Rebuild, added Ihnat volunteered with the group earlier this year in the Kyiv region.

"He was a part of our family ... we lost a very important person," Orikhovska said in a phone interview from Ukraine. "He was a very funny person, he always smiled, he always joked, always hugged. He was amazing."

Ihnat and his colleagues with Road to Relief were on their way to check on civilians in the town of Ivanivske, in the Bakhmut region, according to the group's Instagram post. The region was home earlier this year to one of the longest, deadliest battles to play out in Ukraine since Russian forces first invaded the country in February 2022.

The vehicle Ihnat was travelling in was hit by Russian fire just outside the town of Chasiv Yar, Road to Relief said in its post. The vehicle flipped over and burst into flames.

German medical volunteer Ruben Mawick and Swedish volunteer Johan Mathias Thyr were badly injured and hospitalized, the organization said. Its post said the status of Spanish volunteer Emma Igual, the group's director, was unknown. However, Spain’s acting Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares told Spanish media that authorities in Madrid had received "verbal confirmation" of 32-year-old Igual’s death.

Road to Relief's LinkedIn page says the group was established in March 2022 to help people in Ukraine flee areas affected by the war and help Ukrainians whose home were destroyed during the conflict.

The group has around 2,000 volunteers, and many of them knew Ihnat, Orikhovska said. "He was a big part of our organization," she said.

He was a handyman whose skills were invaluable to the teams that helped to rebuild homes, she said. Many in the organization — Orikhovska included — are grieving his death, she said.

"He was my friend," she said. "I will miss him."

-- By Sarah Smellie in St. John's, N.L., with files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2023.

The Canadian Press