The Russian government is not likely to admit that it has gone broke. That’s a huge assumption, as many may say, but we mean this in a sense that most of their war chest has either been spent already, running low, or locked up and tangled within Western-levied sanctions. With rising evidence that the Russian military has no financial capability to keep up this war in Ukraine, it has now been reported that Russian citizens have been crowdfunding their own military.
Yes, we know what you’re thinking. This “crowdfunding” phenomenon is something rarely seen in the world’s top military forces. Now do not get us wrong. There is nothing wrong with supporting your country’s servicemen and women. We support our military too here at home by having donation campaigns and celebrations to help fund military vets’ financial and medical needs.
When it comes to weapons, we’re sure that the American people would go out of their way and support our troops when the circumstances require it, but this is something you would not see given our budget and capacity to support our armed forces. These expenditures are carefully researched and planned and not just randomly decided on.
It’s a little bit different in Russia, apparently, as it’s been reported that a grassroots movement has been brewing these past few months where Russian citizens are pulling their resources together and donating badly needed items to Russian soldiers headed to Ukraine. This grassroots movement is largely led by women.
The New York Times reported that a certain Natalia Abiyeva, a real estate agent, had already raised $60,000 to support the Russian forces going into Ukraine. They used the money raised to buy food, radios, first-aid gear, binoculars, and even a mobile dentistry kit.
Some of the pictures online of this gear show basic VHF Airband Transceivers by Kenwood and Yaesu from Japan for aviation units flying helicopters and SU-25 Frogfoot ground-attack aircraft. This level of communications gear is basic for civilian aircraft, while military aircraft would have broadband, encrypted transceivers with high output. Using cheap, off-the-shelf handhelds suggests none of that equipment is working in Russian aircraft. It’s pretty stunning actually.
News of them having no food to eat is not new. The Russians have been known to send their troops to Ukraine with expired MREs, even talking to China to donate MREs to address the lack of supply at one point. The news of radios being donated was also not new. The Russians were reported to be having tremendous difficulty with their communication systems in Ukraine, with many troops using local sim cards or unencrypted radios that are easy to tap into.
“The whole world, it seems to me, is supporting our great enemies,” Abiyeva said to the New York Times. “We also want to offer our support, to say, ‘Guys, we’re with you.'”
In doing so, the Russians reveal three things:
1. There is still a large majority who support Vladimir Putin’s bloody war in Ukraine;
2. The Russians inadvertently admit that their so-called world-class, modern, and advanced military was utterly false;
3. The Russian military has terrible logistics and supplies planning at even the basic level of food, water, and ammunition for its troops.
To Russia’s credit, they did prepare for the sanctions they were eventually going to incur, just that they underestimated the gravity of it. Russia reportedly had $604 billion in foreign currency reserves, $350 billion of which were frozen after much of the world sanctioned them and prevented their access to these funds.
“So far, our sanctions have had a crippling impact on those who feed and fund Putin’s war machine. This week, we will announce that we’ve frozen over US$350 billion of Putin’s war chest,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said last April. This number may have gone up since more Russian banks had been sanctioned.
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) May 15, 2022
Russia’s crowdfunded military did not just include potatoes, onions, and the usual first-aid kits. They also reportedly included drones and night vision scopes. These volunteers reportedly gave the donations themselves, driving up to the Russia-Ukraine border where troops were, with Abiyeva already making her 7th trip.
Much like any fund-raiser, as seen with Ukraine’s own crowdfunded military, their efforts are centered on social media, with citizens posting calls for donations. The Russians use their own VKontakte profiles to get the word out and seek out people who can donate food, water, clothing, military equipment, first aid equipment such as bandages, antibiotics, anesthetics, and even crutches and wheelchairs. Several of these items were imported from other countries, indicating that the Western sanctions have been biting them hard but that consumers in Russia still have access to Western goods.
We guess this is why there was a lack of field hospitals near the Ukraine-Russia border way back in February. Maybe it’s because they did not expect the war to drag on for so long that they did not anticipate a lot of resistance from Ukraine, and second, they just didn’t have the supplies to set up field hospitals anyway.
Aleksandr Borodai, a member of the Russian Parliament and a separatist commander, admitted that their side needed more medical materials “in great quantities,” revealing that more than 90% of the Russian injuries were caused by 155mm shells from recently donated US howitzers.
You won’t see the Russian media admitting these realities, though, as it would lower morale (as if it wasn’t low enough) and would go against Russian propaganda. But there was one instance wherein retired Russian Colonel Mikhail Khodaryonok admitted that the invasion was going “horribly wrong” on state television. He said that the Russian people shouldn’t take “informational sedatives” with regard to what is happening in Ukraine as this would lead Russians to believe that they’re actually winning when in fact, they are not. He later walked back his statements and later began parroting the usual Russian propaganda.
With this development, it is safe to say that the Russian propaganda they have been publishing has developed some cracks where real information is seeping through. Otherwise, why would they need to crowdfund equipment for their military?