How Ukraine Raised Over $55M in Crypto to Help Resist Russia

 Donations via bitcoin and ether to Ukraine's government may change the way charities raise money.

As Russia launched an invasion into Ukraine on Feb. 24, Vitaliy Raskalov found himself 6,700 miles from home. When I spoke with the Kyiv-born photographer over Telegram on Sunday evening, he was in Mexico City, busily coordinating a shipment of bulletproof vests to his homeland. All of it will be paid for with cryptocurrency. 

Over the past six months, Raskalov has been selling a collection of his photographs as nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, on OpenSea, the biggest marketplace for such wares. 

Since the war began last week, all of the proceeds from the set, which consists of shots taken atop skyscrapers and other wincingly tall structures, are being donated to Ukraine's resistance. 

"I'm out of the country, I'm not able to take weapons and defend my country," Raskalov said, "but at the same time I'm able to collect money, to raise money, to help." He said he'd so far raised about 4 ether, or just over $10,000, which he says is going toward equipment like helmets, flashlights and those bulletproof vests. 

Ukraine is one of the world's biggest adopters of cryptocurrency, ranking behind only Vietnam, India and Pakistan, according to Chainalysis. 

Elliptic, another crypto data firm, says that donations to groups countering Russian aggression skyrocketed in the second half of last year, with over $550,000 worth of cryptocurrencies raised in 2021 compared to $6,000 in 2020. 

Since Russia began military operations in Ukraine last week, $55.7 million has been raised, according to Elliptic data. 

Much of that is courtesy of donations made directly to the Ukrainian government. Three days after Russia's invasion, Ukraine's minister for digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, tweeted out wallet addresses into which people could directly donate bitcoin, ether and tether, a stablecoin pegged to the US dollar. 

Ukraine's official Twitter account posted the same addresses. Over $47 million has since been donated to these wallets, says Elliptic. The success could change fundraising, both in Ukraine and abroad.

"In the last four days I'm simply shocked," Raskalov said. "I'm so happy with that. At the same time, I'm so upset. A small NFT community and Twitter raised more than $10 million. Most of the countries of the European Union didn't do anything." 

The European Union says it plans to send 500 million euros ($550 million) in aid.

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