From auctioning the Eurovision prize to the saint with a missile launcher: anything goes to stand up to Putin | International | The USA Print

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A huge mural of a saint carrying a missile launcher crowns a building in kyiv these days. Saint Javelina embodies the first commandment of the Ukrainians in war: you will defend your country above all things. Thanks to her claim, more than a million dollars have already been raised to cover the costs of the contest. The image of the new war-religious icon has been baptized in honor of the popular American Javelin anti-tank missiles.

“What can I do to collaborate with my country?” That question, which haunts so many, is the origin of countless campaigns. There are widely publicized ones, like the one that Kalush Orchestra has organized to auction for 850,000 euros the glass microphone that accredits them as winners of Eurovision. Many others, entered the fourth month of conflict, are kept alive in a more discreet way in the face of the uncertainty surrounding the end of the fighting. Some auction soccer jerseys signed by players, others knock on the doors of companies and there are even those who strip naked in exchange for money. In the instagram profile of the project ShieldsUkraine, led by the entrepreneur Tatiana Kamenieva, 24, can be read: “The war is on, Putin is alive, our boys are dying (…) every hryvnia (0.03 euros) counts”.

Electric motorcycles, drones, bulletproof vests, helmets, night vision goggles, vehicles, fuel… Millions of Ukrainians have sharpened their ingenuity to get the necessary material to support the Armed Forces or anyone in need. These are some of those campaigns that take place far from official channels.

To the front on an electric motorcycle

The local company Eleek, with 10 years of experience in the market, had designed a specific electric motorcycle for the army, but “none of the military commanders could appreciate it”, recalls Roman Kulchytskyi, the manager. The current war, however, made them change their minds after some of the soldiers tested the models that had been stored after the failure of the initiative at the front. The Eleek Atom Military reach 90 km per hour and have a range of up to 150 km. Quite the opposite of going in a tank of a few tons. Its advantages? “The silence, the lightness, the speed, the resistance, the maneuverability, it does not require fuel, it can carry up to 200 kilos and they are invisible to the thermal imager,” says Kulchytskyi. Now, having overcome reluctance, they have “massive” commissions from the army, foundations or military personnel in a private capacity. The manager says that they have realized that the Eleek are ideal for reconnaissance tasks, assisting the wounded on the front lines or transporting a missile launcher and, in seconds, moving away from the scene from which the Russians are being fired upon.

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Ukrainian soldiers pose next to one of the Eleek electric motorcycles sent to the front.
Ukrainian soldiers pose next to one of the Eleek electric motorcycles sent to the front.Eleek

You will sanctify the help

Some soldiers already wear the embroidered patch with the image of Santa Javelina on their uniform. To get it, the Ukrainian designer Eugene Shalashov what he did was change the weapon to the Madonna with Kalashnikov which Chris Show painted 10 years ago. When he saw that the war was coming, Christian Borys, promoter of the initiative and born in Canada of a Ukrainian father, began to sell Santa Javelina stickers in his closest environment to raise money. On February 15, nine days before the Russian invasion, this marketing journalist already had a website. The first day, he says, 1,000 dollars arrived, the second, 5,000… and so on until over a million dollars. Now they also sell t-shirts, mobile phone covers, flags… Borys highlights two donations in particular, one of half a million and another of 200,000. A dozen people are involved in the project, half of whom are in Ukraine. To give a boost to the battered economy, the goal is to order the items they sell from local businesses, especially those that have directly suffered the consequences of the fighting, explains Oleksandr. Mikki Fingaz Nesterchuk, a local artist who has become involved in the project. They are already ordering stickers from a small printing company in a town on the outskirts of kyiv that was occupied by the Russians and are selling the first T-shirts from a factory in Dnipro, in the east of the country.

Oleksandr 'Mikki Fingaz' Nesterchuk, one of those responsible for the Santa Javelin project, chats with a neighbor in front of the mural.
Oleksandr ‘Mikki Fingaz’ Nesterchuk, one of those responsible for the Santa Javelin project, chats with a neighbor in front of the mural.Luis de Vega

The war from a drone view

In an increasingly electronic warfare, new technology is often more important than bullets. The organization The Eyes of the Army (The Eyes of the Army), which essentially provides intelligence support, raises funds to send different kinds of unmanned devices to the front line. So far they have managed to raise $400,000, of which 80% has been contributed by “a Ukrainian patriot living in the US,” says Sergei Gnidko, head of the project. They deliver kamikaze drones ($2,000 each, 1,860 euros), others correct artillery fire ($2,500), bombers (starting at $13,000) or airplanes (about $20,000). “The small cost of these devices makes them much cheaper than artillery,” explains Gnidko. A report appears on his website comparing those prices with up to $100,000 for a Javelin shot or between 60,000 and 100,000 for the projectiles launched by a Bayraktar-type drone. Recently, The Eyes of the Army It has carried out a mission to distribute its aircraft over 3,500 kilometres, including an accident without consequences, along the Kharkiv, Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhia and Mikolaiv fronts.

Sergey Gnidko (left) shows one of the drones delivered by Los Ojos del Ejército to a Ukrainian military officer.
Sergey Gnidko (left) shows one of the drones delivered by Los Ojos del Ejército to a Ukrainian military officer.the eyes of the army

In body and weapon

“Beauty will save the world,” wrote Alina, 26, on her Instagram account in the midst of the war along with a suggestive photo. Her body is the weapon with which she has decided to fight. After working as a waitress and a saleswoman, a desire for greater freedom led her to become a nude model in 2015. She opened a profile on Onlyfans, a platform often used to sell sex and pornography, from which she was already earning income. With the Russian invasion, she is one of those who, in exchange for money to support the national cause, has decided to send erotic photos. In her case, she helps the army and people in need. In fact, she asks individuals to send her proof of how they have spent the money she has sent them and she, in turn, publishes it on her networks. She calculates that so far she has obtained between two and three million hryvnias (between 65,000 and 95,000 euros). In no case does she do pornography, something prohibited by local laws, she comments. She assures that, despite feeling useful, they have been “disturbing and terrible” months. “This war is killing me inside,” but at least “it didn’t take my life like others.”

goals without borders

Oleg Salenko was one of the stars of the 1994 World Cup. He was a member of the Russian national team and was the tournament’s top scorer with six goals, tied with the Bulgarian Hristo Stoitchkov. Now, one of Salenko’s shirts, who played in the league with Logroñés and Valencia, has been sold to help the Ukrainian troops facing the Russian invasion. Behind the idea is Igor Palamarchuk, a 33-year-old fan of Dinamo kyiv, where Salenko also played. Along with other colleagues, Palamarchuk is taking advantage of his connections around football to raise funds. It occurred to them to get jerseys signed by players and put them up for auction over the internet. Some athletes have recorded videos to give credibility to the project and raise bids. In addition to Salenko’s they have sold others from players from different countries. There are individuals who have joined the initiative by donating pieces from their collections. They have not done badly with the collection, since they have obtained around one million hryvnias (just over 32,000 euros). Of course, the star of the auctions has not been the shirt of any footballer. Aware of the initiative, the daughter of Andrii Kuzma, well-known lead singer of the group Skryabin who died in a traffic accident in 2015, offered them a T-shirt of his father. They found a video of her concert in which he wore it, which served to revalue it. A Ukrainian family residing in Luxembourg paid 7,000 euros for it, about five times more than what they get for an athlete.

Igor Palamarchuk, a fan of Dinamo kyiv, with a shirt signed by the players of Karpaty Lviv in front of the Olympic stadium in kyiv.
Igor Palamarchuk, a fan of Dinamo kyiv, with a shirt signed by the players of Karpaty Lviv in front of the Olympic stadium in kyiv.Luis de Vega

Solidarity in vein

“In my account right now I have more than 11 million hryvnias,” says 24-year-old Tatiana Kamenieva. But those more than 300,000 euros are not his. It is part of the money that she has received through a dense network of contacts made up of individuals and companies. “The war has mobilized people. It has served to demonstrate what each one is capable of doing, something that perhaps we did not see in times of peace, ”she argues. This young woman from Kharvov had a restaurant in that city, the second largest in Ukraine in population, in which she employed people with Down syndrome, autism and various disabilities. She then set up a charitable project in kyiv, the capital. That is why her friends are not surprised that as soon as the invasion began, it started. The big push was not long in coming. The boyfriend of an old classmate, a 22-year-old cryptocurrency investor named Rotislav, gave him “all” her savings: about 200,000 euros. Apart from the balance in Kamenieva’s account, they have received 200,000 dollars in cryptocurrencies, 5,000 through Paypal and he calculates that around 1.5 million dollars have been donated directly to the manufacturers or sellers of the material they acquire. So far they have bought more than 30 cars, 175 night vision goggles, 100 drones, 600 bulletproof vests and more than $8,000 in fuel, the young woman details. Kamenieva looks to the future optimistically: “I trust that all these abilities will be maintained when the war is over and will serve to build a better country, that it will be like the beginning of a new nation.”

Entrepreneur Tatiana Kamenieva, who uses her extensive network of contacts to raise funds.
Entrepreneur Tatiana Kamenieva, who uses her extensive network of contacts to raise funds.Luis de Vega

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