Ukraine’s Defense—and Hacktivists—Have Raised Over $4M in Cryptocurrency

This story was initially revealed on on February 8, and has been up to date to incorporate occasions following Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. 

Cryptocurrency could by no means have fulfilled its promise because the quotidian foreign money for getting a cup of espresso. Nevertheless it’s confirmed to be a robust, regulation-resistant technique of sending giant quantities of cash anyplace on this planet—together with the warfare zone of Ukraine.

Cryptocurrency funds to navy and hacktivist teams in Ukraine aimed toward countering Russian aggression in opposition to the nation rose sharply within the second half of 2021, in response to cryptocurrency tracing and blockchain evaluation agency Elliptic. Crowdfunded funds to these organizations in bitcoin, litecoin, ether, and different cryptocurrencies the corporate tracks reached a complete worth of round $550,000 final yr, in contrast with simply $6,000 or so in 2020 and fewer nonetheless in earlier years, even on the peak of Russia’s 2014 incursion into the nation. 

And now, within the days instantly following Russia’s full-blown navy offensive into Ukraine, these numbers have spiked sharply, with greater than $4 million despatched to a single Ukrainian navy help group in simply two days.

That $4.6 million {dollars} could also be only a small fraction of the entire funds Ukrainian protection and hacktivism teams have raised by extra conventional means. However the sudden rise of cryptocurrency inside these world donations demonstrates how borderless, typically unregulated crypto funds may fund organizations engaged in future conflicts, says Tom Robinson, Elliptic’s founder. “Crypto is censorship-resistant, so there is no likelihood they will get their funds seized or their account shut down, like would possibly occur with PayPal, and it is also extra amenable to cross-border donations,” says Robinson. “It’s proved itself to be a strong technique to fund wars.”

One Ukrainian group known as Come Again Alive, for example, raised $200,000 for Ukrainian troops in simply the second half of 2021, in response to Elliptic, however doubled that quantity on February 24, the day of Russia’s invasion. The next day it obtained $3.4 million in crypto donations, together with $3 million despatched by a single particular person. The group initially solicited donations for navy tools like bulletproof vests, however it has since expanded into funding the acquisition of reconnaissance and focusing on techniques.

A extra controversial group known as the Myrotvorets—Ukrainian for “Peacemaker”—Heart has publicly named and shamed alleged supporters of Russia or pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine—at the least two of whom have been subsequently assassinated. Myrotvorets raised $268,000 in cryptocurrency previous to Russia’s invasion, Elliptic says, of which $237,000 got here simply within the second half of final yr.

Professional-Ukrainian hacktivists, too, have more and more funded their digital resistance by cryptocurrency. Elliptic traced round $100,000 value of crypto donations to a hacker group known as the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance, which has been accountable for quite a few hack-and-leak and internet defacement operations focusing on Russians and Russian authorities businesses. Cyber Partisans, a Belarusian hacktivist group that gained world consideration by launching a politically motivated ransomware assault on Belarus’ rail system, has additionally raised round $84,000 in cryptocurrency. (Elliptic included that quantity in its $550,000 2021 complete, regardless of the group self-identifying as Belarusian reasonably than Ukrainian, as a result of hackers’ help for Ukraine and demand that Belarusian Railways stop transporting Russian troops in preparation for any invasion of Ukraine.)

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