Wars are fought by governments; in Ukraine, it is crowd-funded
Kiev, Feb 6: Wars are fought by national governments as they are skills that the State possesses. But in Ukraine, one of the republics that broke out of the former Soviet Union in 1991 with the end of the Cold War, one has found the idea of crowd-funding war gaining momentum. And it is indeed a fascinating story.
After remaining caught in a tension between Russia and the rest of Europe, Ukraine saw the worst in 2013 when its pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovych abandoned a trade deal with the European Union.
It was followed by massive protests and in February next year, Yanukovych fled in a Russian helicopter. The Kremlin took advantage of the unrest in Ukraine and seized Crimea which it still continues to occupy despite the West's warnings.
Russia also allegedly started aiding separatist forces in the eastern Donbas region by sending military forces and mercenaries.
It was a tough challenge for Ukraine as the country's military power was weak. Even by the government's estimates, only 6,000 of 41,000 land troop personnel were ready for war and it was because of decades of corruption and neglect.
"As separatists won a series of victories, armored cars requisitioned from a local bank ferried Ukrainian troops to the front. Soldiers were issued medical kits whose only useful item was a condom. Some arrived in sandals or were forced to scavenge weapons from dead separatists. Many wounded troops returned to Kiev and died in military-hospital hallways for lack of beds and surgical instruments," a report by Washington-based Pulitzer Center said, explaining the pathetic state of affairs in the Ukrainian military that was supposed to protect the country at those hours of danger.
War volunteers chipped in to save Ukraine
This called for volunteers and over a thousand participants of Ukraine's famous Euromaidan protests - both men and women - stepped in to knit together some form of military front for the battered country.
They brought together battalions that even had links with ultranationalist groups at times; those that were united by a common hatred for Russia and passionate about Ukraine's own identity. A supply chain was formed to keep the war efforts running.
A former manager of food and beverage company Danone SA did the job of delivering basic provisions worth $2 million to the east. A manufacturing company owner even rehabbed old Soviet-era tanks for the war purpose. Even volunteer ambulance corps were readied, the Pulitzer report said.
Besides, private donors came up who paid for sniper rifles and medical and even mental health services, the report added.
"Within a year the Volunteer Council, a civil group within the Ministry of Defense, had cataloged donations totaling about $12 million to $14 million, an accounting that didn't cover all volunteer groups, nor donations from corporations, in-kind support, or manpower. Diaspora groups in the U.S., Canada, and Europe gave millions of dollars more," the report said.
There were also a bad side to this entire episode. While the parallel system did not do any good to Ukraine's broken mainstream system, there was also the danger of weapons reaching the hands of right-wing extremists and criminals, the report said.