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Crowdfunding buys ‘Tomas the tank’ for Ukraine

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T-72 tanks are used by both sides in the conflict for Ukraine

A Czech crowdfunding campaign for Ukraine has successfully raised more than $1.30m (£1.17m) to buy a modernised tank for the Ukrainian army.

Dubbed “a gift for Putin”, the campaign received donations from 11,288 individual donors, and organisers say it is the first purchase of its kind.

The modernised Soviet-era T-72 tank named Tomas will be sent to Ukraine.

The fund was backed by the Czech defence ministry and Ukraine’s embassy in Prague.

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In a message posted to Twitter, the Czech Defence Minister Jana Cernochova joked that contributors had bought Russian President Vladimir Putin – who marks his 70th birthday on 7 October – “a proper present”.

“Many thanks to all of you who buy him ‘gifts’ in the form of support for Ukraine,” she quipped.

“Once again, thank you very much for your generosity and solidarity. We must continue to help Ukraine! All of us. And we will!”

The Ukrainian ambassador in Prague, Yevhen Perebyynis, tweeted: “The Czech Republic has become the first country where ordinary people bought a tank for [the Ukrainian Defence Ministry].”

The T-72 Avenger is a modernised version of the Soviet-era tank that first entered production in 1969. It has been fitted with a new device to create a smoke screen in combat and has an upgraded front cannon.

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But organisers say they will continue collecting donations to supply Ukrainian forces with a host of other military essentials, including drones, thermal clothing, bulletproof vests and ammunition.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Western governments have supplied Ukrainian forces with huge amounts of military hardware. The US has supplied over $15.1bn in assistance since 24 February, while the UK has committed £2.3bn, according to the UK’s House of Commons research service.

Governments in central and eastern Europe have also donated massive sums to Kyiv’s forces. Poland is believed to have donated around 230 tanks and the Czech government was an early supplier of hardware.

But the Ukrainian government has also pursued modern solutions to keep its military supplied.

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According to the Ukrainian embassy in Prague, the “Gift for Putin” campaign has raised millions of dollars for the wider weapons-purchase programme. Donors can specify what they put their money towards – whether tanks, ammunition, or drones.

Another scheme set up by the government in Kyiv, United24, has been backed by a host of celebrities – including Star Wars actor Mark Hamill.

So far, it has raised more than $196m and has been used to pay for 986 drones, 20 sets of night-vision goggles and a military helicopter. Funds have also been used for humanitarian projects.

And in May, Lithuanians clubbed together and purchased a state-of-the-art TB2 drone from the Turkish manufacturer Bayraktar. Thousands of microtransactions saw the target of €6m (£5.1m) raised in just three days.

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“This is the first case in history when ordinary people raise money to buy something like a Bayraktar. It is unprecedented, it is unbelievable,” Beshta Petro, Ukraine’s ambassador told Lithuanian TV at the time.

Crowdfunding has also been used to raise money for Russia’s war effort.

However, reports suggest money sent by pro-war Russian groups has often been used to purchase food, clothing, boots, basic equipment and medical supplies to treat wounded soldiers, which have often been in short supply.

There have even been reports of mandatory crowdfunding. A Radio Liberty journalist reported two weeks ago that workers from energy giant Gazprom in the Russian far east were being forced to send 1,000 roubles ($17) to buy medications.

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