Local residents are seen in front of partially empty shelves at a supermarket in Kiev, Ukraine, March 3, 2022.
Mykhailo Markiv | Reuters
Donations of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum are pouring into Ukraine as the war with Russia enters its second week.
Since the February 24 invasion of Moscow, more than 102,000 crypto-asset donations, totaling $54.7 million, have been made to the Ukrainian government and Come Back Alive, an NGO providing support to the military, according to new data from blockchain analytics firm Elliptic. The increase includes a one-time donation of $5.8 million from Gavin Wood, the founder of a lesser-known cryptocurrency called polkadot.
Donations resumed this week, with around 72,000 such donations over the past two days. Contributions so far consist of $18.2 million in ether, $17.2 million in bitcoins, and $9.5 million in a mix of USD-pegged stablecoins, including an anonymous donation $1 million tether, a controversial token designed to be pegged to the US dollar. .
Accepting donations in crypto is new for the Ukrainian government. Until Saturday, all donations had to go through traditional payment channels, but on February 26, the government decided to get creative.
Twitter accounts belonging to the Ukrainian government began to solicit donations of cryptoassets for the first time. The move came after the country’s central bank clamped down on digital money transfers as part of a nationwide declaration of martial law.
Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have become more popular as they allow users to bypass financial institutions that may block payments to Ukraine.
Elliptic says the bitcoin, ethereum, tron, polkadot, dogecoin and solana addresses listed in the tweets have received more than 96,000 cryptocurrency donations, with a total value of $46.7 million going directly to the government.
“Cryptocurrency is particularly suited to international fundraising because it respects national borders and is resistant to censorship – there is no central authority that can block transactions, for example in response to sanctions,” said Elliptic chief scientist Tom Robinson.
Donations of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, have also increased.
A CryptoPunk NFT worth over $200,000 was sent to the Ukrainian government’s Ethereum account, and Elliptic claims that a single transaction worth $1.86 million appears to be from the sale of NFTs originally intended to raise funds for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Meanwhile, UkraineDAO has at auction a Ukrainian flag NFT for $6.5 million in ether, making it one of the most expensive NFTs ever sold. Elliptic says the proceeds are to be donated to Come Back Alive.
But even if cryptocurrencies open up new avenues of money for a country fighting a major offensive, the numbers pale in comparison to the money flowing into the country from international allies such as the United States.
In addition to $350 million the White House has authorized in military aid to Ukraine, the Biden administration is asking Congress for $10 billion in immediate emergency assistance to bolster the humanitarian supply, security forces, and economies of Ukraine and its Central European partners. Meanwhile, USAID has pledged an additional $54 million in humanitarian aid in Kyiv.