Russia’s expanded invasion of Ukraine last month inspired support across the globe, from dozens of other nations to scores of anonymous crypto traders.
Along with conventional military aid, Ukraine has received more than $50 million in crypto donations since the war started, according to research from blockchain analytics firm Elliptic. The majority of the donations stem from a tweet by the Ukrainian government asking for donations of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tether, and Polkadot. The Ukrainian government has since expanded the number of cryptocurrencies it is accepting for donations to include Dogecoin, TRON, Solana, and NFTs.
As the human costs of the war become clearer, with deaths quickly mounting and Ukrainian refugees fleeing to safety en masse, empathy and a desire to help is running strong across the world. For crypto investors, the war offers a first-of-its-kind opportunity to help in a material way. With its banking system under threat by the Russian attack, cryptocurrency offers a decentralized way to funnel financial support to the Ukrainian government, experts say.
“One of the core ways to eliminate this threat is through alternative financial structures, [like] crypto,” says Grant Maddox, an independent CFP based in South Carolina.
Ukraine has already spent more than $35 million of the donations it received in crypto on military supplies, $10 million on humanitarian support, and $6.5 million on general aid, according to a tweet by Alex Bornyakov, deputy minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is aiming to double the $50 million figure in the next week.
Apart from direct donations to the Ukrainian government, millions more in crypto has been raised by non-government organizations (NGOs) and other initiatives. For example, Russian punk rock group Pussy Riot helped create a decentralized autonomous organization called UkraineDAO, which aims to raise Ethereum to be donated to Come Back Alive, a Ukrainian NGO that supports the military’s efforts to defend Ukraine against Russia. The DAO says it has raised over $5 million so far.
For Come Back Alive, crypto donations are even more important, after the group was recently suspended by Patreon, a membership platform that allows people to give money to individuals and groups, for violating its policies. Patreon said in a press release the platform cannot “be used for funding weapons or military activity,” and that any funds in the account from before February will be refunded to donors.
If you’re thinking about donating crypto to support Ukraine, here’s what you need to know:
What to Know Before Donating Crypto to Ukraine
In a scenario where two countries are at war, it’s difficult to rely on traditional banks and there’s fear of surveillance, experts say. As a result, Ukraine has turned to crypto.
“There is a compelling use case,” says Chris Chen, a financial advisor with Insight Financial Strategists in Newton, Massachusetts. Chen says the Ukrainian government can exchange crypto for the U.S. dollar and purchase supplies to help support its fight against Russia.
Unfortunately, Russia could also be leveraging crypto in a similar manner to fund its war efforts and evade western sanctions imposed on its central bank and other sources of wealth. Some of the biggest crypto exchanges, including Coinbase, Binance, and Kraken, have refused to freeze Russian accounts because it “would fly in the face of the reason why crypto exists,” a spokesperson for Binance told CNBC.
“Russia does not know who is funding Ukraine. Unfortunately, many may be doing the same funding strategy for Russia as well,” says Maddox.
Donating crypto can be more transparent, faster, and more cost-effective than donating conventional currencies. Because blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions, the flow of money is very transparent. This also reduces costs, both in terms of fees and time.
But the crypto ecosystem is also ripe with fraud and scams. Before donating, it’s important to do some research to ensure your donations are going to the right places. “The standards for identifying accounts are still developing,” says Chen.
If you are sending crypto directly to friends and family in Ukraine, verifying their identities shouldn’t be as much of an issue. They can set up crypto wallets and exchange crypto addresses with you.
But if you want to donate more broadly, the safer bet is to send crypto through nonprofits on the ground, or in this case the Ukrainian government directly. If you choose to donate through nonprofits and charitable groups, find prominent ones that have been vetted. Consider sending a small amount initially to ensure that the address is correct and the recipient is the right person or organization.
It’s also important to note that crypto is extremely volatile, and the developing war in Ukraine introduces new and significant volatility to the crypto market, several experts told NextAdvisor. If you’re donating $100 worth of Bitcoin to a nonprofit organization supporting Ukraine, your donation may not be worth that amount by the time they put it to use. Still, in a time of mounting military pressure, any amount can help.
How to Donate Crypto to Ukraine
There are several different ways you can donate your crypto to support Ukraine. Here are a few options to consider:
Donate to the Ukrainian Government Directly
The most secure way to ensure your crypto is being donated to Ukraine is to donate to the government directly. On Feb. 26, Ukraine’s official (and verified) Twitter account shared two cryptocurrency wallet addresses — a Bitcoin wallet address and an Ethereum wallet address. It is also accepting USDT and Polkadot.
We weren’t able to confirm the legitimacy of the tweet with the Ukrainian government, but there are several reasons why it appears the Ukrainian government is in control of the funds received on these wallet addresses. Chen points out that it hasn’t been taken down since it was posted. “Speculation is that if it was fake, someone would have noticed and taken it down,” he says. Secondly, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted the same crypto wallet addresses — from his own verified account.
To donate, you’ll need two basic things: a cryptocurrency wallet with some coins and a public key address to send a transaction to. You’ll enter the address of the wallet you want to send the donation to, and the amount you want to send. Always double-check the address they are sending to before hitting “send.” Also, how long the transaction takes and how much you pay in fees will differ between blockchains.
Donate to Supporting NGOs
Some nonprofits and charitable groups are accepting crypto donations directly, including Come Back Alive, Ukraine DAO, and the Kyiv Independent, an English-language Ukrainian newspaper that has been chronicling the war via its Twitter account.
Crypto fundraising campaigns to support Ukrainian humanitarian efforts are also being organized through third-party platforms like Endaoment. A public fund set up on Endaoment to support Ukraine has raised over $500,000 in crypto, and the proceeds will be distributed equally among seven different nonprofits, the platform says. The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, one of the organizations participating in the Endaoment fund, says it was able to partner with another nonprofit to send $50,000 worth of medical supplies for humanitarian purposes to Ukraine because of the crypto donations so far.
“It’s going to have a phenomenal impact,” says John Kun, vice president of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, a nonprofit that supports democracy, a free market, and human rights in Ukraine. “The first parcels are going to happen in the next day or two.”
Another nonprofit organization called Nova Ukraine said they have also received some crypto donations, but that it’s a “relatively small fraction of the total” for the organization. Nova Ukraine also accepts donations via check, PayPal, and Benevity, a platform that partners with companies for charitable causes.
NFTs are also being leveraged to help the Ukrainian government. Fedorov tweeted plans to issue the country’s own collection of NFTs to support the Ukrainian armed forces. On top of that, a number of crypto enthusiasts are rallying around Ukrainian NFT artists themselves, putting together Twitter threads and Google spreadsheets of people to support. For example, TIMEPieces, a Web3 community initiative from our publishing partner TIME, released an NFT project called “Artists for Peace” that raised 121 ETH, equivalent to $354,000.
Other Ways to Help Ukraine
There are several ways to help Ukraine beyond donating crypto. Here’s a list of charities that are supporting humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and accepting standard online donations: