Ukraine's bionic limb center expands as war grinds on

By Marc Jones

(Reuters) - A Ukrainian center that provides free bionic and prosthetic limbs to soldiers maimed by Russian shells has expanded its main hospital and intends to open others in the country as its two-and-a-half-year war grinds on.

Thousands of Ukrainian troops have lost limbs since Russia launched a full-scale invasion in 2022. Battlefields are littered with mines, while artillery and drone attacks steadily expand the number of injured.

Kyiv does not release casualty data, but Pryncyp, a human-rights organisation representing military personnel, estimates the number of Ukrainian war amputees between 20,000 and 50,000.

Philipp Grushko, co-founder of the Superhumans Center, said the new hospital wing opened in Lviv on Thursday would help meet demand for prosthetics and reconstructive surgery. The center has treated 500 amputees since opening in April 2023 and helped some soldiers return to the front line.

Grushko estimates the new wing will enable staff to fit 70-75 prosthetics and conduct 30-45 reconstructive surgeries a month. A 4,000-square-metre facility opening soon in the Black Sea port city Odessa will include a prosthetics lab and rehab gym.

Much of the non-profit organisation's money has come from donors including Howard G. Buffett, the son of legendary investor Warren Buffett, and British singer Sting. Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska, is part of the center's board.

The Superhumans Center recently secured $25 million of "war-risk insurance" from the U.S. government's DFC development finance institution.

Grushko said the war insurance, a rarity in Ukraine, covers rebuilding costs if hospitals are damaged.

Russia has made battlefield gains this year, mounting attacks across the eastern Donbas region and along the country's northeastern border and Kharkiv region.

(Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Rod Nickel)