Crowdfunding highlights Russian army’s supply problems in Ukraine

Yevgenia Kuzevanova has raised money to buy everything from first aid kits to instant noodles for Russian forces in Ukraine.

His online group Help for Soldiers, based in Russia’s Sverdlovsk region near the Ural Mountains, is one of many civilian movements frantically gathering basic equipment for an under-equipped Russian army.

“It’s our personal will, it’s our duty!” Kuzevanova said in an exchange on the WhatsApp messaging service.

“We are patriots of our country.”

The supply problems suffered by the Russian armed forces are the result of its losses in seven months of fighting in Ukraine, as well as corruption and mismanagement, experts say. And, as tens of thousands more men are drafted into the military as part of a “partial” mobilization, the need for groups like Help for Soldiers will only grow.

“Due to the mobilization, everything we would like to buy for the next shipments sold out catastrophically”, Help for Soldiers job Thursday.

“We have decided to buy as many warm clothes as possible while they are still available.”

Although Russia has the fifth largest defense budget in the world – valued at around $66 billion a year – the work of these grassroots groups reveals how often those sent to the frontlines lack basic supplies, including food, warm clothing and medicine.

Mobilized at the assembly point.
Kirill Zykov / Moskva News Agency

Unverified video pictures which emerged last week showed an officer telling newly mobilized men to buy their own first aid equipment, including swabs they could use to dress gunshot wounds.

The rush to buy supplies from private dealers following Russian President Vladimir’s announcement of a “partial” mobilization last month has led to a spike in prices for military equipment in recent days.

The 6B45 body armor – a staple among the Russian ground forces that claims to provide protection against a Kalashnikov rifle from as close as 10 meters – was sale over the weekend on the Avito online market for 40,000 rubles ($700).

“Today, our focus is medicine”, Help for Soldiers wrote Sunday in a plea to his more than 800 followers on his page on the Russian social network VKontakte.

“We focus on dressings, haemostatic agents (very necessary and important), analgesics (weak and strong), cold and cough remedies, antihistamines and shock absorbers.”

Often led by women – some of whom have sons, husbands, brothers or fathers fighting in Ukraine – these groups raise funds not only by appealing to people’s patriotic feelings, but also by relaying calls and requests for those on the front line.

“Tea, coffee, gloves, cellophane or something to protect against the rain. For 15 people or as many as you can get. With love,” demand a soldier, according to a screenshot of a WhatsApp message posted last month in Russian group Spring Z on VKontakte.

Along with basic medicines and supplies, these groups often also send photos and letters, sometimes from children, in an apparent attempt to boost morale.

“Soldiers also write letters in response,” Kuzevanova said.

bulletproof vest 6B45.  Vitaly V. Kuzmin (CC BY-SA 4.0)

bulletproof vest 6B45.
Vitaly V. Kuzmin (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Although crowdfunding has long played a role in warfare, it has traditionally been limited to providing soldiers with nonessential goods, according to Ben Hodges, a former general who led US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Russia’s crowdfunding efforts go far beyond that.

“The fighters asked for a weather station and a barometer, a drone, a diesel generator, bulletproof vests, 10 [pieces of] a camouflage net, a cot, 15 sets of winter clothing and 200 polypropylene bags”, another crowdfunding group — We Don’t Give Up On Our Own – Help our Soldiers — job last week on their VKontakte page.

Shortages of key equipment underscore systemic supply issues facing Russia’s armed forces, Hodges said.

“It’s unacceptable that a modern army doesn’t have drones, thermal imagers and generators…they don’t have a culture of readiness,” Hodges said.

Russian forces have suffered a series of military setbacks in recent weeks, being forced out of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region and having to withdraw from the strategic town of Lyman – a key Moscow foothold in northern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region. Donetsk.

Photos and video footage of towns and villages evacuated by Russia showed large amounts of abandoned ammunition, equipment and other supplies.

A “partial” mobilization decree signed by Putin last month was widely seen as an attempt to solve Moscow’s manpower problems and strengthen defenses in the occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

“Now there will be more work, so every contribution counts,” crowdfunding group Reliable Home Front job on their VKontakte page shortly after Putin’s announcement.

Reliable Home Front, which is run by women, is decidedly patriotic and uses cartoon illustrations to appeal to its 1,150 members.

The Soldiers Aid Group /

The Soldiers Aid Group /

The group also holds online auctions in which it sells everything from French designer jackets to Soviet jackets. badges crochet for kids toys and authentic russian army ration packs “signed by a soldier” to raise funds.

Auction proceeds were used to buy a thermal imaging camera, 30 first aid kits and four pairs of night vision goggles, according to the group.

The fact that one of the world’s best-funded armies lacks such basic equipment suggests the existence of significant corruption and mismanagement, according to Sam Cranny-Evans, a military expert at the group of reflection of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London.

“There are things like socks, basic equipment that Russian soldiers should have but don’t. And it comes down to a culture of corruption that seems to come from the top,” Cranny-Evans said.

Another proof of possible military corruption, a RUSI report published earlier this year revealed that personal equipment and body armor introduced as part of Russia’s 2012 Ratnik program were widely available for purchase on Avito.

Even once they have secured supplies, volunteer groups still face the difficult task of getting them to soldiers on the front line.

Many rely on supporters to travel to the Ukrainian border or send the items they have purchased in parcels to the western Russian city of Belgorod.

“It is becoming dangerous to travel from Belgorod, the war has already crept up to the border and the locals are constantly hearing artillery fire,” the Reliable Home Front group said. job Last week.

“[But] for the sake of the guys, our girls hit the road and put it all back together,” the group said about a recent volunteer trip to the border town.

“Our fearless girls are the ones who move the Russian world forward.”

Russia news

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