With Ukrainian soldiers buying their own uniforms, volunteers are now stepping in to equip the troops facing rebels in the east
It has been used to raise money for films, rock bands and aspiring performance artists. Now Ukrainians have taken the concept of onlinecrowdfunding to a new and giddy level, raising enough money to buy the country’s first “people’s drone”.
With Ukraine’s army battling pro-Russian militants in the east, ordinary citizens have launched a new initiative to supply Kiev’s beleaguered and badly equipped troops. Over the past three months volunteers have provided uniforms and bulletproof vests for government soldiers whose army-issue fatigues have fallen apart. Villagers have offered food, bottles of water and bags of crisps. Then, last week, Ukraine‘s crowdfunding site The People’s Project said that it had received enough donations to fund a drone. It will be used for reconnaissance in the skies above the rebel Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, and on the border with Russia, the scene of numerous recent shootouts between troops and separatists.
The organisers had originally hoped to buy a state-of-the-art Israeli drone – for $165,000 (£97,000) – or a cheaper American one costing $120,000. In the end, however, they managed to build the drone for just $35,000. A designer and other volunteers built the airframe, with a Ukrainian military institute chipping in technical equipment. The hope is that with enough drones the army will be able to stop the infiltration of men and material from neighbouring Russia. Kiev says there is overwhelming evidence that the Kremlin has supplied heavy weapons and even old tanks to the rebels. Moscow denies this.