The Ukrainian Battalion Crowdfunding A Robot Tank

Is that what the makers of Kickstarter had in mind when they pioneered crowdfunding?

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© 2017 Ministry of Defence Russia

The war in Eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military has been a rather lopsided affair ever since the direct involvement of the Russian Army in the conflict. Ukrainian troops (often formed into paramilitary battalions) are poorly funded due to decades of corruption, and lack often even basic supplies. As a result they have suffered several large scale defeats in recent weeks. Rather than give up the fight however, they are turning to an unlikely method for material support.

More commonly used by aspirational tech startups, a Ukrainian ‘charity’ group is now asking for donations to help crowdfund the production of a futuristic robotic tank. Dubbed the ‘First People’s Tank', the vehicle will be a remote controlled tracked fighting unit, armed with machine guns and anti-tank missiles.

The tank is to be built by the Zhytomyr military institute and will be equipped to provide both on-road and off road fire support. Ironically, the main chassis of the tank will be based on the Platform-M military robot developed originally by the Russian Federation. The Ukrainian soldiers who are asking for funding, hope that through the use of this robotic, unmanned system, they can reduce the number of soldiers who are being wounded or killed while fighting Russia.

Image: © 2014 The Mykolaiv Region Charitable Foundation

Despite the fact that the group behind this funding drive, the Mykolaiv People’s Charity Foundation, are not using Kickstarter or IndieGoGo for this project, they host a site which is clearly a stylistic copy of these popular platforms. From the 'amount to goal' section, down to payments advice, and even information regarding challenges the project could face, everything has the look and feel of a more ‘pacifist’ crowdfunding site.

The Mykolaiv People’s Charity Foundation has been raising money for a vast array or warfighting supplies.

It’s not just tanks they are crowdfunding either - the Mykolaiv People’s Charity Foundation has been raising money for a vast array or warfighting supplies. Past campaigns have raised money to by ballistic armour, sniper rifles, satellite communications equipment, thermovision camera, radios, and even octocopter surveillance drones, all with the aim to defeat Russian-backed forces in Ukraine.

While, this is definitely an innovative use of crowdfunding, it is something which could prove dangerous into the future. More dangerous groups, such as IS or Boko Haram, could use similar methods to gain funds from sympathetic donors worldwide in order to pay for weapons used to terrorist and destabilize other countries. In truth, the internet simply makes it easier to connect willing donors, with those in need of funds, regardless of the character of the recipient.