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Ukraine Military Group Receives $400,000 in Bitcoin Donations in One Day: Report

The donations "suddenly shot up" right around the Russian invasion, according to Elliptic.

2 min read
A Ukraine soldier. Image: Shutterstock

In brief

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine early Thursday morning.
  • Bitcoin donations are pouring in to assist with Ukraine's defense.

In 2021, about $570,000 in Bitcoin donations went to pro-military Ukrainian groups. Today alone, almost $400,000 in BTC has been sent to just one of those organizations, "Come Back Alive," according to analysis from U.K.-based blockchain analytics firm Elliptic.

"This group provides support to the Ukrainian army by supporting their soldiers," Elliptic research lead Jess Symington told Decrypt over the phone. "They've received very, very small amounts of donations since August 2021—not very much at all; maybe like $4 or $5K a month. And then suddenly it just shot up starting about the 22nd of February."

From Ukrainians' perspective, the funding is urgently needed. On Wednesday, after a monthslong buildup of Russian troops on the border, President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine, euphemistically calling the invasion a "special military operation." 

Ukrainian organizations adopted crowdfunding tactics back in 2014, when Russia-aligned President Viktor Yanukovych was removed from office during the Maidan Revolution. Now it's commonplace for volunteer groups and NGOs to fundraise for weapons and medical supplies that soldiers can use. Come Back Alive also has a Patreon page with membership levels denoted by weapons. 

Organizations tend to take funds in whatever format in which they can easily get them. Wikipedia, for example, began accepting Bitcoin donations in 2014, alongside credit card and PayPal transactions. But when traditional payment routes are cut off—as was the case with GoFundMe donations sent to the Canadian convoy protestors last month—groups can rely more heavily on crypto. Peer-to-peer crypto transactions can bypass banks, financial institutions, and even government controls—though, to be most useful, they may occasionally need to be exchanged for cash. 

When Decrypt spoke to Elliptic, Come Back Alive had already received around 370 individual donations on Thursday, with the average amount clustered in the $1,000 to $2,000 range, according to Symington. While Elliptic has been tracking donations to other Ukraine NGOs and volunteer organizations, among them the hacking group Ukrainian Cyber Alliance, it hasn't noticed a spike in donations for these groups.

Elliptic plans to do further analysis in the coming days on the sources of donations.

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