A crowdfunded war: How the internet is paying for Ukraine's defence

14 March 2022, 12:38

Social media coverage has connected people to the conflict in Ukraine
Social media coverage has connected people to the conflict in Ukraine. Picture: Alamy/Getty/Twitter

By Daisy Stephens

Since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly thee weeks ago, almost everyone around the world has had the same question - how can we help?

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Governments, including the UK, have rallied around Ukraine and its defiant president, providing humanitarian aid, weaponry and words of support.

They have also battered Russia with sanctions, including asset freezes for oligarchs and phasing out imports of Russian oil.

Private companies, too, have played their part, with Apple and McDonald's among many big names to cease or restrict operations in the country.

Read more: Squatters invade £25m London mansion of Russian oligarch in protest over war in Ukraine

Read more: Kyiv flats struck by Russian shell leaving two dead and many trapped under rubble

But there's another operation running alongside that, funded by individuals with a need to do something to help the Ukrainian defence from across the globe.

As Lindy Kyzer of ClearanceJobs.com put it in the LA Times: "Welcome to the crowdfunded military effort."

Ukrainian authorities work to extract residents from Kyiv building after Russian shelling

On February 24, the day Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Ukraine Twitter account posted a link to a crowdfunding page.

It asked for donations for the Ukrainian army.

The post received thousands of retweets and likes, with people commenting below asking for more information on how to donate in a variety of ways.

Days later, another crowdfunding campaign launched by Ukrainian officials allowing people to donate to the army via their embassy in Prague went viral in the Czech Republic.

The campaign was launched to raise money for Russian-style weapons that could be used by Ukrainians with very little military training.

Suddenly people could contribute to the war effort and fund Ukraine's army in the same way they might adopt a pet at the zoo - and the Czech Deputy Minister of Defence Tomas Kopecny told the Washington Examiner the campaign raised more than $3m in 24 hours.

Read more: Pregnant woman and her baby die after maternity ward bombing in Ukraine

Read more: 'War with NATO if single Russian toecap' steps into its territory, Sajid Javid warns

And it's not just appeals from the army itself - individuals in Ukraine are turning to crowdfunding to enable them to protect themselves.

Thirty-three year old cafe-bookstore owner Oleksii Erinchak raised $3,500 to buy a sniper rifle for a friend, according to The Times.

And Maksym Zaychenko, a 36-year-old entrepreneur, called on friends from across the globe to provide specialist hospital equipment to treat troops - and civilians - with war wounds.

Instead of relying on international governments, citizens of Ukraine have turned to the goodwill of regular people to fund their life-saving missions - and it's working.

Will you be housing a Ukrainian, Secretary of State?

In many ways, Europeans are more connected to this war than they have been for any other past conflicts.

Photos and videos from Ukraine shared on social media take stories from the frontline across the world in seconds.

After seeing first-hand the impacts of a Russian bomb on a maternity hospital, or witnessing endless queues of Ukrainian refugees desperately fleeing bombardment, people are compelled to help in a way they may not have been before.

Read more: Russia asks China for military help as PM says Putin's 'barbaric' actions 'test humanity'

Read more: 'Bloated' Putin could be 'suffering from steroid side effects of cancer treatment'

They are also much more informed, with the UK Ministry of Defence posting regular "intelligence updates" and maps showing the progression of the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenkskyy is also incredibly active on social media, posting updates from Kyiv, his discussions with leaders, and pleas for help from the international community.

All that changes the perception in the Western eye from a war between countries to a war between people.

With all of that cramming their social media platforms, it is no wonder people want to help in any way that they can.