U.S. veteran rescued from Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine: 'We don't leave our people behind'

Project Dynamo has rescued more than 200 people in Ukraine since Russia invaded

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Project Dynamo, a group of U.S. veterans and civilians who have helped Americans and allies escape Afghanistan and Ukraine, rescued retired Sgt. 1st Class Robert "Bob" Platt, Platt's wife, and the couple's cats from a town northeast of Kyiv on Saturday night. 

Platt lived in a town that put him "squarely behind enemy lines with, no kidding, Russians in his backyard and tanks parked on his street," Project Dynamo co-founder Bryan Stern told Fox News Digital. 

Operatives on the ground planned to evacuate Platt and his family on Thursday, but the team came under Russian artillery fire when they were just five miles away from Platt and had to turn back. 

"Bob had told me, he says, 'Look, Brian, it's too hot here. You need to go. Just leave. We'll be in Russian-occupied Ukraine,'" Stern said of his conversations with Platt last week. "And I said, ‘This is the deal. We don't leave our people behind, not happening. You have two very simple jobs: Stay positive and stay alive. Leave the rest to me.’" 

Stern and the Project Dynamo team devised a new plan and executed it on Saturday when a window of opportunity opened. 

Platt, a veteran of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division who served in Operation Just Cause and Operation Desert Storm, and his family were finally whisked from their town and driven across the Polish border on Saturday evening. 

"To be able to tell a service member behind enemy lines, ‘We will not leave you behind.' And then to rescue him and not leave him behind — it’s just great." 

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Stern, a combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient, co-founded Project Dynamo in late August to help Americans and allies flee Kabul after the Taliban took over Afghanistan. 

The group focused their efforts on helping Americans in Afghanistan until January, when it began sending team members to Ukraine as Russia started amassing forces on the border ahead of the invasion. 

Over the past few weeks, Project Dynamo has helped 215 people flee Ukraine, including three premature babies and a family of Afghan refugees who settled in Kyiv last year after escaping Kabul. 

Stern said that rescue operations have been tougher in Ukraine because they can't use aircraft, but easier because surrounding countries have opened up their borders to those seeking refuge.  

"It's been really inspiring to see the other countries opening their arms for people in need," Stern said. 

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Nearly 3.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded, including more than two million to Poland and hundreds of thousands to Romania, Moldova, Hungary, and other countries, according to the United Nations.