Volunteers who raise funds for the Ukrainian military share their motivations, worries and bank details for those who are willing to donate
The Ukrainian Week talks to volunteers who are raising funds and gathering military equipment for the Ukrainian army to find out three things: 1. Why they started doing it. 2. What problems they have encountered, and 3. What they have accomplished
1. I was actively involved in the Maidan and then simply could not stand aside. We started helping our troops when the events in Crimea unfolded: we simply chipped in UAH 500-600 each and went to the peninsula. Now, we cannot abandon these guys. They truly need support: for example, today we have been asked to help purchase 1,400 bullet-proof vests.
2. There are some units that are equipped like NATO troops (communications, vests, protection, medications and weapons). But they are few. The rest lack even the basic necessities, such as water.
If we collect enough to form a motorcade, we then transport it largely by ourselves. However, we sometimes receive several calls a day with people asking us to help transport bullet-proof vests, helmets to their sons and their friends, for example. This is when we face problems, because it is not sensible to form a motorcade for this purpose only, and then we would quickly run out of money. We used to dispatch things like that by courier, but now, for some mysterious reason, they don’t ship helmets and bullet-proof vests.
3. Efficiency in mutual assistance. For example, we needed a storehouse and received about a dozen proposals via Facebook within a day. Company owners support us by offering deep discounts or simply gifts.
In my opinion, we need to immediately amend the law on tenders, because it is absolutely nonsensical when, to buy any equipment, even a pair of boots, you need to allow 45 daysthe tender itself and then another 10 days for consideration. This means wasting nearly two months, so we do not officially cooperate with the government. Moreover, foreigners are reluctant to pour money into a government black hole and various funds that have negative experience.
UAH 3 mn in aid to Ukraine’s Armed Forces and the National Guard
400 bullet-proof vests and 180 kevlar helmets, over 50 night vision devices, three thermal imagers, over 200 ballistic spectacles, more than 200 tactical lights and over 300 tactical vests and uniforms
1. We started helping the army after the events in the Maidan were over and the annexation of Crimea started. Several people formed an informal public initiative called Armia SOS (Армия SOS) to help our troops. When active warfare broke out near Sloviansk on May 2, I stayed there to coordinate aid on the spot, because checkpoints lacked water, food, sleeping bags, tents, equipment and light. There had to be someone there to collect information about the needs of forward-based units and procure all the necessary things. Finally, we completed a super project there by drilling a water well on a hill to give our troops a constant water supply. It was extremely dangerous bringing water there on a daily basis – gunmen shot at the road and made ambushes. This is where our paratroopers were ambushed and killed several weeks ago.
2. Our army and law enforcement agencies in general were ruined and embezzled over the years. So, the question about what is lacking is a rhetorical one – everything is lacking. Activists are helping through direct financing from people, not through taxes. They are simply buying the necessary things and bringing them close to Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. There is still a need for bullet-proof vests and helmets. Plants cannot catch up with the demand. There is a lack of radio sets to create closed communication lines and night sights. We are now buying new pistols, because those that the army has are outdated. But we cannot, of course, buy a helicopter.
3. In comparison to the early stage of the active anti-terrorist operation, the situation has changed dramatically. There are more technological reconnoitering devices. Our troops are fully supplied with tents, sleeping bags and extra uniforms. We are also supplying detergents and foodstuffs. We are now able to do a much better job of supplying things thanks to people who care. Even though we are coordinating our actions with the National Security and Defence Council, we try to bypass power structures and make sure all shipments are delivered to specific receivers. We always ask whether our shipments have been received in full. It should be noted that there are many honest, decent people in the army. Of course, there are also those who do not understand why they are there, but they are cut down to size.
1. I am responsible for logistics and collection and transportation of goods. I answer calls from army units and help people who want to donate. We cooperate with six large military units, including the 95th Zhytomyr Air Assault Brigade and the 26th, 51st, 79th and 72nd mechanized brigades. Communications units, such as the 164th brigade in Kharkiv, have also appealed for help. We try not to turn anyone down and meet local requests. Then, there are cases like this one: a farmer from Poltava Oblast called and asked for help in purchasing 10 bullet-proof vests and 10 helmets. I found the telephone number of the company commander who was in the very epicentre of action together with his men.
2. Ukraine has problems with bullet-proof helmets. Everything we are buying now is contraband goods –British or German helmets. There are people who bring them over to Ukraine, and we help distribute them in the army. It is sometimes hard to track where our shipments go, because it is a closed zone. There was a case when our shipment did not get to the destination place — a major took possession of an entire delivery truck full of helmets and bullet-proof vests. When he was asked why he had done so, he replied that his unit needed that aid more than the 95th Zhytomyr Brigade.
3. We do not always know what the army and its specific units need. We need some kind of coordination centre. So far, there is none, even though promises have been made. We receive great help from people who provide media coverage of our work – in this way, the level of trust is increasing. We need to establish dialogue with the government. After a meeting with representatives of the Defence Ministry, volunteers started being allowed in hospitals where there are wounded soldiers, and this has been a great improvement.
Three thermal imagers, three pairs of night vision spectacles, one drone and 18 bullet-proof vests purchased
1. I started doing this, because I understand that I could save someone’s father or husband, but if I pinned hopes on the state, I would not. I don’t want to take up arms myself, so I need to help those who know how to wield weapons professionally. Within a month, I have been able to create a team, achieve fairly stable results and purchase expensive modern devices. Fighters greatly admire children’s drawings and high-quality equipment. When we started handing over thermal imagers and nigh vision spectacles, they said it was supercool and beyond comparison.
2. What we would like to receive from the state is help, rather than phone calls from bureaucrats with questions like “Who authorized you?” The state is slow because Soviet people still have the power, and our government apparatus is truly Kafkaesque. There are no people there who could take the initiative.
3. We need adequate command. I would like to see the top brass who sit in the General Staff and embezzle funds to be dispatched to the front in the same vests and with the same devices that our troops have there. This is treason, sabotage and unprofessionalism on their part.
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