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Ukraine now has a new way to raise money to fight Russia: A Ukrainian Telegram account is offering to write custom messages on artillery shells to be used by Ukrainian soldiers against invading Russian troops. A 22-year-old Ukrainian student said he has raised thousands of dollars through this $40 per shell deal. 

Photographs have circulated depicting Ukrainian soldiers wielding artillery shells with messages like “Welcome to Ukraine” and “Happy Father’s Day.” This recent effort demonstrates the creative methods employed by Ukrainian civilians to help fund the war effort. 

Social Media Fuels Support for Ukraine

As the largest conventional war in Europe since World War II, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has uniquely been shaped in part by media coverage. Since the initial invasion in late February, social media has helped galvanize support for Ukraine’s defensive efforts and ignite resistance against Russian forces. 

An account on Telegram that exclusively shares footage and information from the war also advertises the artillery service. The account “artillery_text” is run by twenty-two-year-old Anton Sokolenko, who resides in Cherkasy near central Ukraine. 

According to an Insider article, Sokolenko is not endorsed by the Ukrainian army. His artillery service is strictly done on a volunteer basis. The NGO, “Center for Assistance to the Army, Veteran and Their Families” confirmed that Sokolenko has contributed approximately $18,000 to their organization. 

Modern Warfare Adapts to the Times

The Telegram advertisement describes the artillery service in detail. It reads “all donations will be spent on equipment for our soldiers. Soldiers at the front will write your text with indelible marker on the whole side of a 152 mm artillery shell and then fire at Russians. You can ask to write any text: wish someone a happy birthday/ death in pain, propose marriage, name, Instagram/ telegram username.” So far, Sokolenko says he has raised enough money to purchase two Starlink systems, a pickup truck, and a thermal light. 

Private donations to Ukraine’s defense effort have unquestionably been instrumental in shaping the war. Russia’s defense budget last year was just shy of $66 billion. Consequently, Ukraine’s budget was one-tenth of that at just under $6 billion. Following Russia’s invasion, many European countries began to increase their own military budgets. Last year, global military spending surpassed 2 trillion dollars for the first time, According to Reuters.  

While the use of signed artillery shells won’t help Ukrainian soldiers in combat against Russian troops, the monetary exchange will. Alternate services have popped up to also fund Ukraine’s troops. For a $1,000 donation, Drones for Ukraine will gift a keychain designed from the exterior of a Sukhoi Su-34 bomber. In exchange, the organization will buy drones for Ukraine’s army. The Su-34 is a Soviet-origin twin-engine, supersonic strike aircraft that has repeatedly failed the Russian Air Force in its offensive attacks. The airframe is getting shot down consistently and reports have indicated civilian GPS receivers are being taped to the cockpit controls. Since the onset of the war, Russia has lost at least ten Su-34 fighter-bombers

As Ukraine continues to be barraged by Russian forces, civilians won’t cease utilizing creative means to aid their country’s survival. 

Maya Carlin is a Middle East Defense Editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.