Money and Markets

Bitcoin donations to Ukraine's army surged as Russian forces rolled in, with R45 million coming from a single giver

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Demonstrators seen at the Lincoln Memorial calling for the US to take action amid the Russia-Ukraine tensions.
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  • A Ukrainian NGO raised over R60 million in bitcoin for the country's army as Russia attacked, Elliptic said.
  • One donor alone gave R45 million on Friday, the blockchain analytics company told Insider.
  • People who can't navigate the international banking system can give bitcoin really easily, it said.
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A Ukrainian nonprofit raised bitcoin worth more than R60 to support the country's army as Russia attacked, according to blockchain analytics company Elliptic.

Come Back Alive — a charitable foundation that collects money for medical kits, military gear and other items — took in around R10 million in the cryptocurrency on Thursday, the day Russia's forces attacked Ukraine.

By Friday morning, it had received another R51 million in bitcoin, with R45 million coming from a single donor, Elliptic told Insider.

"Yesterday, we thought that was a shocking rise in donations. But this morning, it's totally eclipsed that," Jess Symington, research lead at Elliptic, said on Friday.

On Thursday, Russian president Vladimir Putin authorised a full-scale attack on Ukraine, and on Friday Russian forces advanced toward its neighbour's capital, Kyiv. The new wave of hostilities expanded the clash from a limited incursion over disputed land into the most serious armed conflict in Europe for at least a decade.

Come Back Alive has been the most successful group by far in raising money for Ukraine, she said. Founded in 2014, the NGO started accepting crypto donations four years later and saw a surge in bitcoin donations recently.

Symington said crypto assets provide an alternative funding route for people who can't navigate the international banking system, but do have access to bitcoin and can donate it easily.

"This is potentially a new factor in complex situations — the idea of fundraising and crowdfunding for defense efforts," she said.

Elliptic research found that givers can make quick cross-border donations using crypto assets, bypassing financial institutions that might be blocking payments.

Giving platform Patreon suspended Come Back Alive's fundraising campaign on its platform on Thursday, CNBC reported. The NGO had raised over $300,000 (R4.5 million) on the site, which is designed to help people give money to support writers and similar creators.

Accepting crypto can be good for fundraisers, too, Symington suggested.

"It provides another group, or access to a much larger group, of potential donors than just having fiat or Ukrainian fiat donation options," she said.

Volunteer groups have been an important part of the Russia-Ukraine conflict over the past decade and have been closely linked to the Ukraine government, Elliptic research showed.

Some have turned to cryptocurrencies for their efforts, Symington said, with local newspaper Kyiv Independent is fundraising in ethereum as well as bitcoin. Blue and Yellow is a Lithuanian movement that accepts bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin.

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