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This Week on Crypto Twitter: Millions Donated as Russia-Ukraine Conflict Dominates Conversation

Vitalik Buterin was among those pointing Twitter users to UkraineDAO, co-founded by Pussy Riot, Trippy Labs, and members of PleasrDAO.

4 min read
Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Image: Shutterstock
Illustration by Mitchell Preffer for Decrypt

Russia's invasion of Ukraine, dubbed "the world's first crypto war," led to outpourings of support on Twitter—and millions of dollars in crypto donations.

As of Sunday morning, according to the blockchain analytics firm Elliptic, nearly $17 million had been raised.

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin broke his Twitter silence about the Russia-Ukraine crisis a fortnight ago when he publicly implored Putin not to invade Ukraine, saying it would "harm humanity."

The 28-year-old Buterin, a Canadian who was born a Russian national, certainly wasn't known for political commentary on Twitter, but then things escalated.

When Russia began its full-scale invasion on Thursday, Buterin tweeted: “Very upset by Putin's decision to abandon the possibility of a peaceful solution to the dispute with Ukraine and go to war instead.” He added that it was a “crime against the Ukrainian and Russian people,” and that “there will be no security.” He signed off, “Glory to Ukraine.”

Seconds later, Buterin added: “Reminder: Ethereum is neutral, but I am not.”

On Saturday, the official Twitter account for Ukraine was openly soliciting donations.

Buterin initially responded with a now-deleted tweet warning that the @Ukraine tweet "could easily be a hack," but the address was soon confirmed by Tomicah Tilleman, formerly a U.S. diplomat and a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, where he was global head of policy. Tilleman tweeted that he confirmed the addresses directly with Ukrainian ambassador Olexander Scherba, whom he tagged in the tweet.

Buterin replied: “Getting some confirmations from a couple sources that it's legit. Deleting my warning for now.” He later retweeted the plea from @Ukraine.

Bloomberg News podcaster Joe Weisenthal tweeted an update today about donations sent to the addresses in the @Ukraine tweet: “Very interesting. The Ethereum address posted by the @ukraine account, which Bloomberg confirmed is legit, has taken in far more money than the Bitcoin one. $4.1 million worth of ETH and other tokens vs. ~$1.1 million of BTC.”

Broadly speaking, the leaders of Europe and North America have agreed that the best response to the invasion, without escalating the conflict to include other states or territories, is to hit Russia and its global network of oligarchs with sanctions.

Yesterday, the U.S., Canada, and several key European countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom, agreed to ban Russia from the SWIFT international banking payments system. Billionaire American investor Bill Ackman said Russians should go get their money while they still can.

Twitter user Miles Suter noted that Russia's ban from SWIFT could “incalculably accelerate” crypto’s rise as an alternative payment system.

Some wrote that cryptocurrencies presented a possible means for Russia to evade sanctions, but Neeraj Agrawal, director of communications at the crypto lobbying group Coin Center, said that because of the public and decentralized nature of blockchain’s distributed ledger system, Russian businesses and oligarchs wouldn't be able to escape detection.

Agrawal on Saturday tweeted: “Treasury dept knows there isn’t a realistic risk that Russia could use cryptocurrency to evade sanctions at a meaningful scale. We’re talking about multiple orders of magnitude larger flows of money than would be possible to conceal on a public ledger.”

On Friday, Chinese Blockchain journalist Colin Wu reported that Ethereum’s fourth-largest mining pool, FlexPool, cut off all service to Russian Ethereum miners and paid them their outstanding balances. Russia is the third-largest crypto mining nation in the world, after Kazakhstan and the U.S.

And earlier in the week, FTX crypto exchange CEO and founder Sam Bankman-Fried tweeted that every Ukrainian on FTX was given $25. Bankman-Fried signed off, “do what you gotta do.”

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