Russian citizens are crowdfunding to equip soldiers deployed to Ukraine as winter closes in on the battlefield.
Troops have complained they are short of basic equipment – and the message has reached Russian President Vladimir Putin. He and other officials say they are working to overcome issues with supplying newly mobilized troops, partially blaming supply chain issues.
But the Kremlin has also stepped up pressure on those who dare to complain – and is increasingly framing the invasion of Ukraine as a patriotic and almost existential cause.
Local campaigns are raising funds for soldiers in both Russia and the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine.
One, dubbed “Together is Warmer,” has raised 3 million rubles (about $45,000) to provide basic equipment and clothing for Russian soldiers.
A Telegram channel detailed last month how citizens helped supply the DPR’s 6th Motorized Rifles, a company of 74 men.
The channel listed what the citizens bought: Uniforms, thermal underwear, socks, hats, balaclavas, sweaters, berets, a generator, power banks, medicines, clothes, boots and even two wheelchairs, which the company took to the hospital.
In the Chuvashia region, where the mobilization prompted protests in the fall, Telegram channels said that families had gone into debt buying equipment.
“From officials there, all they got was parting words and three sacks of potatoes,” one said.
Many of the public crowdfunding appeals focus on preventing hypothermia among soldiers fighting without adequate clothing and shelter in sub-zero temperatures. In the central Russian city of Tambov, for example, 8th grade schoolchildren raised money for socks for the troops.
But some also try to source thermal imagery devices, two-way radios, body armor or even drones.
Maxim Samorukov, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in Foreign Policy magazine last week: “Ordinary Russians are expected to help their friends and relatives who have had the misfortune of being drafted. Indeed, they have little option but to cover the deficiencies in state provisions out of their own pockets simply to protect their loved ones.”
Read more on the Russian supply issues — and Moscow’s official response — here.