Now entering its fourth month, the war has been nothing but absolutely devastating for both sides. With the Russian forces shelling the Ukrainian forces since the beginning of the invasion, it’s not uncommon to see them running out of military equipment and munitions. In what is largely seen as a crowdfunded war, Russia unveiled its new crowdfunded aid for a fighter jet squadron featuring equipment that you can buy at your local hardware, mall, or online shop.

Crowdfunding is something we have seen from both sides of the war. It started off initially with the Ukrainians, with their citizens and much of the international community pitching in to buy them basic military equipment. When the war dragged on, the crowdfunding became more intricate with campaigns to buy the Ukrainian fighter jets and, most recently, a Lithuanian-led crowdfunding campaign to buy Ukrainian forces Bayraktar-TB2 drones, which have since become revered weapons in Ukraine due to their effectiveness against Russian forces.

The Turkish company Baykar Tech, which manufactures the drones, has recently refused the crowdfunded money from the Lithuanians and decided it would give the drone for free.

“The people of Lithuania have honorably raised funds to buy a Bayraktar TB2 for Ukraine,” Baykar said in a statement on Twitter.

“Upon learning this, Baykar will gift a Bayraktar TB2 to Lithuania free of charge and asks those funds go to Ukraine for humanitarian aid.”

Don’t get us wrong, we know Ukraine has a military-industrial complex of its own, but it does not boast a military force as big as Russia. Russia was once touted as one of the best and strongest militaries in the world that was initially predicted to take Kyiv within a few days of starting the invasion. Western military observers bought into Russian claims of invincibility until about two weeks after the invasion saw the Russian offensive stall and their casualties begin to mount.

The once 2nd ranked military in the entire world and among the highest in terms of troops in uniform is losing in Ukraine against a much smaller foe by a huge margin so far. Now, it’s being crowdfunded by its own people.  Unlike troops in the west asking for confort item from home like beef jerky and chewing tobacco, Russian troops are calling home saying they lack basic military equipment like radios, medical supplies and night vision googles.  But when your military is asking for equipment for fighter jets and can’t provide your troops with the basic military equipment to begin with, then something is clearly wrong within the Russian leadership.

We’ve recently seen the new Russian crowdfunded aid for one of its fighter jet squadrons, and it’s as bad as you may imagine. In photos published by war studies Ph.D. candidate Rob Lee, you can see a Russian squadron posing with a ton of crowdfunded equipment, with several of the equipment being placed in front of a Su-34 fighter jet.

Some of the donated items include an assortment of tools you’d use to work on your car on a Saturday afternoon (i.e., wrenches, screwdrivers, power tools), mostly from China and, surprisingly, Stanley and Makita. We’re not kidding. This is stuff you can buy at your local hardware, or Lowe’s for your do-it-yourself home centers. Simply put, these are not things you would expect a military of this caliber would need. This just shows how much corruption the Russian military (and government) is dealing with, with Russian soldiers probably stealing tools off of their bases to sell for money.

We could also see two units of Chinese-made commercial forklifts from Hangcha being donated. In the photos, you’d see the Russians trying to move around bombs with these forklifts.  Moving ordance like this is extremely dangerous by the way

Hangcha-brand commercial forklifts being used by the Russian forces as donated by civilians (Rob Lee). Source:
Hangcha-brand commercial forklifts being used by the Russian forces as donated by civilians (Rob Lee/Twitter)

In other photos, the Russians indirectly reveal how little basic military equipment used to support troops in the field was being provided to them. Honestly, some of these things were the most essential ones, and what they got were barely military grade. If you were serving in the Russian forces, it would seem that you go into the field with very little beyond a rifle and some ammunition.

Equipment such as Chinese Baofeng radios, Holosun and VOMZ optics, Hikmicro Thermal Monocular scores, Satcom phones, laser range finders, Bushnell binoculars, Yukon Sightline night scopes, X Terra 705 metal detectors, MeteoScan 937 pro weather systems, and DJI Mavic UAVs were seen to be donated to DNR fighters, probably because they are the ones nearest to the border making it easier for civilians to donate the equipment. Some generators, chainsaws, food, and clothes were also donated to the Russian forces, including some Oakley gloves and non-flammable clothing.

Did we also mention that there are also weed whackers in some of the photos from Carver. We are not sure why they’d need weed whackers in Ukraine. It’s not like they’re going to be landscaping and planting flowers over there. They also had some random helmets and axes laying around the photos.

We also saw some equipment being donated to Russia’s 346th Spetsnaz Brigade, with some thermal optics, clothes, gloves, thermal optics, backpacks, and DJI Air 2 S Combo UAVs. If you’re new to the Russian military, the “Spetsnaz” is a general term used for their most elite units, one being their Special Operation Forces. Yup, you heard that right, their SpecOps brigades are being crowdfunded with commercially available equipment. The “Special Forces” label in the US carries with it huge budgets for the latest equipment and technology. You don’t think we’d send them on special missions with Chinese-brand radios, would you?

This series of photos only confirm what we’ve known prior, that the Russian military is severely lacking in equipping its troops with the equipment it needs. It also shows why their movements in Ukraine are so predictable as they are using commercial radios that are unencrypted, leaving them vulnerable to intercept and geolocation by the Ukrainian forces.

Given the general level of graft, bribery, and corruption endemic in Russian society, we were impressed that any of this gear even reached the soldiers at all. We imagine that the items were delivered by a “rat-line” system of couriers using vehicles to personally deliver these items to the forward areas.  No doubt they had to bribe and talk their way through numerous checkpoints without the gear being seized or stolen by other Russian units, just as desperate for equipment they can use or sell to others.