A Ukrainian student has discovered a peculiar way to raise money for the military fighting against the Russian invasion by offering the public chance to send custom messages on artillery shells to the Russian forces before firing them for $40. The proceeds from the fundraising project will directly be used to arm the Ukrainian forces.

Anton Sokolenko, a 22-year-old IT student from Cherkasy in central Ukraine, shared that his message deal has raised thousands of dollars for local fighters. His ads are posted on social media platforms and forums such as Reddit.

“You have a chance to kill orcs with your text on a 152 mm artillery shell that will be fired at Russian soldiers,” reads one of Sokolenko’s promotional posts, using the common Ukrainian slur “Orc” against a Russian soldier. “You will receive a photo of your signed grenade.”

Sokolenko initially priced the donations at $40 per shell. However, due to popular demand and decreasing supply of artillery shells, the price has been raised to $100 per shell. If individuals availed of two, the price of a message would be $70.

Artillery shells with messages written on them (U24). Source: https://twitter.com/u24_news/status/1538635274984607746
Artillery shells with messages written on them (U24/Twitter)

The ad, posted on the encrypted messaging platform Telegram, states: “You can ask to write any text: wish someone a happy birthday/ death in pain, propose marriage, name, Instagram/ telegram username.” He then assured those seeing the ad that the shell would be fired toward the Russian forces.

He also posted a list of payment methods such as Venmo, Paypal, and Revolut, as well as a bank transfer for those seeking to pay via wire transfer. “Yeah, it’s a real thing… It took about 3 weeks to get a reply with a picture of my message,” said one satisfied customer.

The young volunteer disclosed that his efforts are neither officially sanctioned by the Ukraine government nor the country’s military authorities. He added most of his orders come from his Telegram channel and collaborated with a local non-government organization to put the message on the shells.

“Order your sign here – t.me/combat_ftg” Photo courtesy of Anton Sokolenko (@combat_ftg).

The wacky yet intuitive fundraising program has been an internet favorite, particularly within the Reddit community, which has been requesting to inscribe shells with memes. Other messages come with notes of where the donors came from, such as Australia, Germany, and Belgium.

There were also shells inscribed with unusual greetings such as “Happy Birthday” and “Happy Father’s Day.”

The NGO “Center for Assistance to the Army, Veterans and Their Families” has confirmed that Sokolenko, a registered volunteer, has been able to send over $18,000. The money is used to procure tactical equipment and other essential goods for nearby detachments.

Another offer from them is that the public could get their messages written on surface-to-air missiles that will be fired using a Buk missile system. This service will set you back about $400.

A Bright, Explosive Idea Riding on Artillery Shells

“I’m not that brave to participate in the war, so I’m trying to do my best to help soldiers to stay alive and to kill enemies,” Sokolenko said, adding that the idea was inspired by the messages-on-shells project that signed shells to avenge their fallen colleagues.

“I found a volunteer center where I could help with making Molotov cocktails. That was a useless job because their expiration time was one to two days, and we were making 1,600 cocktails a day.”

An artillery shell with the message "BIG GUY UUUU" written on its side (U24). Source: https://twitter.com/u24_news/status/1538635281238302724
An artillery shell with the message “BIG GUY UUUU” written on its side (U24/Twitter)

Sokolenko initially thought of collecting photos taken from the frontlines to attract donations. Although it provided an initial influx of cash, donations eventually dried up. “I was scrolling Ukrainian channels and saw soldiers signing shells in revenge for their colleagues,” he said, discussing how he got the idea for his fundraising project.

When asked about the ethical repercussions of a fundraising project that rides on possible war casualties, the young volunteer responded:

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“It’s a bit of a provocative question, but as a Ukrainian — as with every Ukrainian — I can say that I’m happy to know that as many Russian soldiers were killed as possible.”

Sokolenko noted that the project has allowed him to purchase two Starlink systems, thermal vision equipment, and funding for a car which he said was essential in evacuating wounded soldiers from the frontlines. He noted that about 120 messages are still waiting to be inscribed on the artillery, with more requests to come as the project gains even more attention.

“Tomorrow, we will look for another unit to help with making signs because a lot of people want to help with making it popular,” he said.

Since the start of the war, Ukrainians have found creative ways to raise money for their troops fighting against what was supposedly a modern and highly equipped military – the Russian Armed Forces. One Ukrainian brewery launched a special dry-hopped golden ale called Putin Huilo, which translates to “Putin is a d*ckhead.” Furthermore, Citizen Brick, a LEGO company, has raised thousands of dollars through their custom line of block figurines featuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Molotov cocktails.

With the Ukrainian Armed Forces losing morale while fighting the Russians in the east, there’s no doubt they need all the help they can to purchase sorely needed military equipment. If this is something that piques your interest in helping the Ukrainians out, you can directly contact Anton Sokolenko at @artillery_text on Telegram.

Note: The piece was corrected with a proper image representing @combat_ftg after Anton Sokolenko reached out and corrected us. Please note that “combot_ftg” is a scam channel.