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Russia-Ukraine war: how is the global solidarity offensive to send weapons to kyiv

In a workshop in western Ukraine, a technician was fitting a metal bracket to a drone so it could carry a grenade, turning a flying object sold in hobby shops into a lethal weapon.

Nearby were two American businessmen who had arrived at the workshop with a dozen drones, a small part of what has become a torrent of military aid to Ukraine.

But this is not part of the state-sponsored arms shipments being sent to Ukraine to help the country fight in the east against a more powerful Russian army.

Those drones are part of a multi-million dollar campaign of crowdfunding that generates million dollars in donationsas well as a large number of small arms and other military equipment for the Ukrainian army.

To boost donations, Ukrainian officials and private companies are making direct online appeals to foreign nationals sympathetic to the country, while continuing to pressure governments to supply them with heavier weaponry as well.

One of the American businessmen, Chad Kapper, said his journey began with a call to a Ukrainian friend who has career drones.

Ukrainian soldiers train in the Zaporizhia region, days ago. Photo: REUTERS

“I said, ‘Hey, what if you need anything? Can we get you parts or whatever?'” recalled Kapper, founder of a racing drone company. “And he said to me, ‘Yeah, whatever you can do.'”

For many of the donors who have been involved, this conflict has an unusual moral clarity.

“We were wrong about Iraq, just like we were wrong about Vietnam. We got into places we shouldn’t have been,” said the other American businessman who brought the drones, a Tennessee businessman who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons. .

“These people don’t ask us to come, they just ask for our support. The least we can do is support them,” he said.

US President Joe Biden approved a million-dollar arms shipment to Ukraine.  Photo: BLOOMBERG

US President Joe Biden approved a million-dollar arms shipment to Ukraine. Photo: BLOOMBERG

Solidarity and military equipment

Although Ukraine receives significant shipments of heavy weapons from the United States and other governments, the online campaign capitalizes on widespread sympathy in the West and has led to significant donations to the country’s war effort.

Donations include dual-purpose items such as drones for hobbyists; military equipment such as night vision goggles; bulletproof vests, rifles and ammunition; and free lobbying services by US companies.

The largest campaign, a social media appeal for donations by the Ukrainian Embassy in Prague, raised nearly $30 million from 100,000 donors less than three weeks after it was launched and included donations from around the world, according to officials. Czechs.

“We call on everyone to financially support the fundraising aimed at giving immediate assistance in the acquisition of military equipment for the Ukrainian army and citizen self-defense units,” the embassy said on its Facebook page in February.

The Czech government, which also profits from the sale of its own weapons, said it would quickly approve the purchases.

Another Ukrainian site offers a list of groups that ask for donations, including in cryptocurrencies, for items such as thermal imaging devices, drones and satellite phones.

With any campaign crowdfundingThere are concerns about fraudsters, and Ukraine had corruption problems before the war.

But so far there have been no reports of wrongdoing in online efforts to obtain more weapons.

A shipment of weapons and ammunition, prepared at a military base in Delaware, USA, to be sent to Ukraine.  Photo: AP

A shipment of weapons and ammunition, prepared at a military base in Delaware, USA, to be sent to Ukraine. Photo: AP

a fighter plane

In the boldest request, a Ukrainian company launched a government-approved appeal last month to raise donations to buy a fighter plane.

“Buy me a fighter plane. It will help me protect my sky full of Russian planes,” a gray-haired Ukrainian fighter pilot asked in English.

The website explained that a MiG-29 or Su fighter jet could be purchased from one of several countries for much less than the $20 million a new one costs.

“For this reason we are reaching out to international companies, entrepreneurs and everyone who can join the initiative,” the website said, cheerfully adding: “Join! Teamwork makes the dream work.”

A company spokesman said a week after the campaign began that they had raised about $140,000 and acknowledged that the call was addressed to millionaires.

“I think it’s hard to believe that he could buy a fighter jet, that they could use it in a useful way and get, you know, the right people with the right training,” said Simon Schlegel, senior Ukraine analyst at think tank Crisis Group. .

“I think this is something that is probably more of a marketing gimmick,” he added.

Stephen Flanagan, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corp. who was director of defense policy for the US National Security Agency, said US public involvement in the war has put pressure on the government to do more for Ukraine and “certainly dissipated some of the initial hesitations” of the US government to provide lethal support to the Ukrainian military.

Although shipping weapons to Ukraine requires US export licenses, the Commerce Department said in March that it would speed up approvals for the export of weapons and ammunition shipped from the United States.

drones for hobbyists

Donations of dual-purpose items, such as hobby drones, face few obstacles.

“For drone enthusiasts to do anything with military hardware is practically impossible,” said Kapper, founder of Rotor Riot and a celebrity in the world of international racing drones. “Amateur stuff is in a sense unregulated, so they can use whatever they can get.”

Kapper’s hobbyist drones – known as First Person View for the images transmitted live to the pilot’s goggles – are at the opposite extreme from fighter jets.

Ukrainian military observe a drone near the city of Izyum, near Kharkiv.  Photo: EFE

Ukrainian military observe a drone near the city of Izyum, near Kharkiv. Photo: EFE

But they appear to fill a void as Ukraine awaits more supplies of military-grade drones.

“They are calling me from different points, from different battalions and saying ‘can you send more? We are out of it,'” said a Ukrainian drone operator who asked to be identified only by his middle name, Oleksandr. For security reasons, he asked that the location of the drone center not be identified.

Oleksandr said that the drones brought by the Americans would be used to transport explosives and observe units of Russian fighters at the front.

The story of the war of a weaker country resisting a powerful aggressor and the specter of genocide in Europe has resonated with Americans and around the world.

“After I sent money, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough,” the Tennessee businessman said.

“I have resources and I have contacts in this part of the world. And I knew I could make a difference by putting some things in place to help with drone supply,” he explained.

The businessman, who said that the Ukrainian military had contacted him asking for help, explained that he was creating a charity so that people could make donations in order to buy drones for Ukraine. Despite later modifications to drones, he considered drone donations to be for “humanitarian purposes.”

“There is nothing illegal,” he said. “They have asked for drones. What they do with them is their business.”

In addition to carrying grenades, the drones, which reach speeds of more than 110 kilometers per hour, are used by Ukrainian forces for forward observation of Russian units, targeting artillery and locating people in destroyed buildings or forests using of infrared cameras.

Many of the hobby drones, which cost $1,000 or more, are short-lived.

“The enemy shoots them down, so some live only a day or two,” Oleksandr said. “But on that day or two they have important missions. We protect ourselves. We are not going to cross the border into Russian territory: we are in our homeland.”

the ukrainian resistance

In 2014, Ukrainian civilians responded to the Russian invasion of Crimea by mobilizing to support an ill-equipped and unprepared army, laying the foundation for many of the basic efforts of this war.

“It’s very surprising how much of this advocacy effort has its roots in civil society,” Crisis Group’s Schlegel said. “There are small networks of people who can buy almost everything except heavy weapons.”

Schlegel noted that videos coming from the front lines and the proliferation of social media sites that use open source intelligence to analyze the dynamics of the battle have also fueled public participation in the conflict.

“Social media has been very close to the front lines, much closer than in most historical wars,” he said.

“It’s the biggest ground war in many people’s lifetimes and for many it’s the first time they’ve seen tanks in action on that scale.”

Source: The New York Times

Translation: Elisa Carnelli

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