Army of Suppliers. Who is Helping the Frontline and How

sshot-15 June 2014, by Anastasiya Ringis, Ukrainska Pravda Zhyttya

Many social initiatives that emerged at Maidan are presently successfully supporting the Ukrainian army and the National Guard.

There are dozens, hundreds of such groups, and even thousands if we take the entire country. Ukrainska Pravda Zhyttya had picked several best known initiatives. Through joint efforts of hundreds of volunteers and thousands of sponsors they have provided assistance for the amount of over UAH 13 mln.

Army SOS

An investment broker, an auditor, a manager of an American company, a project manager and a private entrepreneur – that’s the team of the activists known as the ArmySOS on their Facebook page. The group includes 2,800 registered members.

The ArmySOS volunteers met each other at the time of Maidan, three of them being participants of Automaidan and Auto Patrol. They work on the project to support the army after or during their main work.

“In the first days of mobilization a friend of mine complained that the first special tank brigade in Chernihiv did not even have the most urgently needed things,” tells Kostiantyn Ostrovskiy, one of the group members. “That’s when we started gathering the necessary things with the help of our friends: roll mats, sleeping bags, warm clothes and socks. The first fundraising event inspired us to begin systematic work in this direction. The group actually took under patronage the first battalion of the National Guard. We were supplying food during the training exercises, and when the soldiers were sent to the east – we were delivering armored vests and portable radio sets.”

Photo from the FB of Army SOS

Army SOS has collected UAH 2.5 mln since 19 March [2014]. For that money, the following was bought: 450 of class 4 armored vests, 150 portable radio stations, 200 battle-field lights and 400 ballistic masks as well as thermal imaging devices, optical trackers and night-vision devices.

One of the activists joined the first battalion of the National Guard when they went to the east (for safety purposes his name is not mentioned) in order to evaluate the soldiers’ needs on site and provide assistance effectively.

“The battalion arrived to its location on the 1st of May [2014] and the next day they were sent to battle. The special forces were knocking the terrorists out of the checkpoints and when the latter were retreating they poisoned and buried the water wells. We were short of water and food, patrol power units, cauldrons, electricity, wires and flood lights,” tells the “eyes and the hands” of the Army SOS group, who works in the East of the country.

He visits all Ukrainian checkpoints around Sloviansk several times a week on his own car and makes a list of all that is needed. After that, the activists find the means to cover the requested through the Facebook page.

Everything that can be bought for the Ukrainian soldiers on spot is bought in the closest populated areas and cities. More complex orders are delivered from Kyiv.

The group is highly credible as it makes very scrupulous reports to its subscribers, publishing accounts of their activity on a weekly basis. Half of the funds come from large companies and private entrepreneurs.

Wings Phoenix

 All volunteers working with the army know very well: if you need armoured vests, ask Yura Phoenix. His Facebook Page – Wings Phoenix – has over 10,000 subscribers. One has only to write to Yura that some squadron needs help and dozens of volunteers respond. More than UAH 4,5 mln arrived on his account. More than two thousand soldiers received targeted assistance.

Wings Phoenix specializes in support to the regular army.

How did it all begin? Yura is a private entrepreneur, originally from Mykolayiv. His father came to the Command Post of the 79th special airmobile brigade at the beginning of March [2014] to find out how to help the soldiers. After having written down the long list of requests, he realized he would not be able to handle this without his son’s help.

Yura Phoenix – that’s what he is called – has an exclusive executive talent. He is capable of solving complex issues within the shortest time possible.

For example, a serious shortage was revealed with the 79th brigade for the high-grade security armored vests. The brigade officers have worked out a sample of armored vests and Phoenix has found several enterprises: one making armored vests covers, and the other one supplying titanium.

After having synchronized the interests of all parties, he managed to set the production of class 4 armored vests. The production cost of such an armored vest amount to UAH 2,150.

From the very beginning of the Anti-Terrorist Operation officers pass from hand to hand Phoenix’s contact details. He and his team looks after the interests of a dozen of brigades, including the 26th Berdychiv artillery brigade, the 72nd motorized guards brigade, 164th radiotechnical brigade and 15th Boryspil transport brigade.

Phoenix is capable of doing something that the army officials fail at. For instance, he makes no secret he has to import smuggled medicines needed up-front.

Yura Phoenix is a kind of a “hub”. He is among the first ones to find out what’s needed up-front and writes about it on the Facebook. Those who can help financially or participate in the project physically respond to those posts.

Phoenix calls his regular assistants the “wings”. He’s got around 30 of such people: essentially, they are project-managers who deal with specific problems of specific battalions.

Pheonix personally escorts trucks loaded with packages for the soldiers. He tells one time a major stole 40 armored vests. However, that was an exception to the general rule.

“The loops in the regular army are enormous. That notwithstanding, huge funds are allocated in the state budget for the army. What the army needs at present is managers who can use their brains, rather than placing money from one account into another for their own profit,” believes Phoenix.

He is sure: despite of the tragedy of the armed conflict in Sloviansk, it’s the first time the Ukrainians have a chance to build a highly professional and independent army.

 Blogger Fund Diana_ledi

“Not too long ago the guys from the first Sloviansk checkpoints had to go fishing and send the fish in armored vehicles to other checkpoints. Because there was no food,” tells the ex-senior editor of “LiveJournal Ukraine” Diana Makarova about the soldiers under her wing.

Her blog in LiveJournal – Diana_ledi – has turned into a small blogger fund from the end of January [2014]. During Maidan Diana with a small team of volunteers was supplying the legions that were at barricades.

In early March [2014] her friends – the very Self-Defence soldiers who had been through Maidan – signed up for the National Guard. For a month they were taking military training in Novi Petrivtsi [Kyiv Oblast]. When the bloggers found out that approximately 17 UAH are budgeted per one National Guard member for the meals, they arranged a supply of food products. And when the National Guard were sent to the east, they started supplying equipage and making deliveries to Sloviansk.  

“Basically, we work with common soldiers and not the decision makers, tells Diana Makarova. – Our goal is to supply them with the most urgently needed things, including uniform to special devices. If, for example, some Ivan Ivanov needs an optical tracker, because he is a good shooter, we give one specially to him. Essentially, we fill in the “gaps” that the state will never be able to fill.”

Diana Makarova together with her team supplies six checkpoints around Sloviansk. Each checkpoint is guarded by the National Guard members, paratroopers, and internal troops. Activists cover the needs of both ex-Maidan participants and regular army soldiers.

“Our National Guard members were screaming “We can wait and you’d better give the ‘ghillies’ (the camouflage suits) to the paratroopers. That is how we ended having more people under our wing,” tells Ms. Makarova. 

Paratroopers assist the National Guard members in making a “professional” list of needs. According to the Manual, a soldier is not entitled to an optical tracker, a fire control stick, special belts, battle-field lights, or battle-field gloves. But it’s really not that simple for someone who used to be a civilian yesterday to be in the war without all those devices and accessories. For that reason such needs are covered by the volunteers.

Diana Makarova’s team consists of eight people. The social picture is diverse: there is a student, a young mother, a married couple, a banker who packs deliveries to the east, a married couple who drives in their own car around all warehouses and wholesale stores.

One or another volunteer takes an order from the frontline by phone on a daily basis. “The most difficult thing is to find the goods, not the money. Army stores in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Donetsk are empty, so we have to order some things via Internet from other countries,” tells us one of the volunteers Iryna, who is an accountant by profession.

At the end of the week a loaded car is sent to Sloviansk. Within five weeks the blogger fund has sent six cars each containing goods for the amount of UAH 100,000 to 150,000. The total amount of donations accumulated by the volunteers in favor of the army makes over UAH 600,000. The expenditures reports are published in the blog.

“People send money to me from many countries. Some of the contributors accompany their money transfers with messages. People often write “Forgive us,” tells Diana.

Automaidan for the Army 

“The wife and the two kids send a big thank you for the armoured vest and their dad being alive. Plus one life. After the battle surveillance. Yes, my friends, by helping the army we are saving other people’s lives and fight for our country’s future,” writes on his Facebook page Vitaliy Umanets, the manager of the group Automaidan for the Army.

The Automaidan activist together with his friend were among the first ones who started systematically helping the Ukrainian army in the Crimea.

They have over 25,000 subscribers. Dozens of people contact him every day. Automaidan members try to help many people, but their priority includes those units and battalions, which are either already located on the frontline or are being sent there.

“We began by buying uniforms, army boots, and the most urgently needed things. Now we purchase class 6 armored vests for UAH 8,000, thermal imaging devices [recognizing at night time thermal energy radiated by living beings, which allows to ward off sudden assaults-ed] and other specialized devices,” tells Vitaliy.

His team includes 10 regularly involved members. When the workload increases, the team increases to 25 people involved into implementing specific projects. Volunteers often go to the units to verify their requests in person. From the time the Crimean conflict began, the Automaidan members have raised donations in the amount of approximately UAH 1 mln.

“We estimate people donate more for the war than they used to donate for Maidan,” believes Vitaliy Umanets.

Support the Army (EuroArmyMaydan)

Anna Sandalova, a PR-expert, arranged a group to support the Crimean military men in the first days of the Crimean campaign. They worked as simple as delivering food and water to the military units and topped up mobiles. After the attacks on the military units they arranged evacuation of the Ukrainian soldiers.

It was already clear back then that the army can’t manage without the help of the general public. Sandalova has a vast experience in business: her former employers include UEFA and Danon Ukraine. She knows exactly how to split the projects into stages and involves outside assistance for the implementation of specific tasks.

The first brigade that was fully equipped by the group EuroArmyMaydan – later they created an open group Support the Army – was the 30th special motorized guards brigade. Having worked out an algorithm to support the military men, Anna Sandalova shared it with everybody who contacted her on the facebook-page.

“The problems of all units are the same. So the algorithm is as follows: you need to understand the top-priority needs of the soldiers of the specific unit, make an exact list of priorities, announce it to the public, and within two to three days you can find help – someone will grant money, someone will grant goods and someone will offer services. After the project realization you must definitely give an account of what you did,” advises Anna Sandalova.

Presently the Support the Army initiative has over 6,000 members and a wide network of volunteers. Besides Kyiv, there are nine more cities in Ukraine with the representatives of this initiative: Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Odesa, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolayiv, Ivano-Frankisvk, Uzhhorod, Lutsk and Lviv.

The volunteers have jointly arranged help to the soldiers for the amount of UAH 5 mln in the past three months.

While until recently the group’s main tasks were to supply the soldiers with equipage, now one of the priorities is to supply the medical centres of the Anti-Terrosirt Operation headquarters. For instance, the other day the group delivered to the headquarters stretchers, artificial respirating units, medical rucksacks, tourniquets and a big batch of Celox (Celox is a haemostatic, which is not yet licensed in Ukraine).

The Support the Army team works on ensuring that every soldier has a package of Celox in his pocket.


Translated by Svitlana Skob, edited by Alya Shandra


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3 thoughts on “Army of Suppliers. Who is Helping the Frontline and How

    • Please see google doc to find an address. Other questions best be addressed to the coordinators of this campaign

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