January 27, 2023

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KYIV, Ukraine — Among the eclairs and macarons at the pastry counter at Honey Café in Kyiv are small glazed cakes with confectionery letters emblazoned with “ZSU,” the letters standing for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

A portion of the proceeds from each cake sold at the café goes to the Ukrainian military. It’s just one small contribution, and it’s part of a widespread trend in Ukraine that sees companies and individuals donate to the military.

Western governments introduced long-range precision air defense and artillery systems that helped the Ukrainian military turn the tide on the battlefield.

At home, Ukrainians fund the army through taxes, with about 50 percent of the budget now going to defense. Moreover, individual donations are another resource, and have swelled over the past year.

A poll conducted last fall by Ukrainian station Suspilne Media found that about a quarter of Ukrainians, or 24%, said they donated money directly to the military during the war.

Over the past year, 22.3 billion hryvnias, or about $500 million, have been directly donated to the military by businesses and individuals, according to Ukraine’s central bank. This far outstripped charitable contributions within Ukraine for humanitarian aid, which amounted to 920 million hryvnias, or $20 million.

Nongovernmental groups that collect donations and purchase equipment donated to the military, such as bulletproof vests, night vision goggles, or infrared scopes, are also an important source of support.

One of the largest of these organizations, Povernys Zhyvym, or Come Back Alive, raised 5.3 billion hryvnias, or $132 million for the military.

As for the Serhiy Pritula Charitable Foundation, it raised 3.5 billion hryvnias, or $87 million. Fundraisers like this foundation often raise money for specific purchases, such as the Air Force’s Bayraktar TB2 attack drone.

Several groups collect money for the army or to purchase weapons through sales Personal messages on bombs or artillery shells. Punisher, a company that makes long-range attack drones, has a website that allows people to put messages on bombs for a fee, which goes toward funding the development and production of weapons.

On the larger end of donations from individuals, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, General Valery Zalogny, in October donated $1 million to the army from an inheritance he received from a Ukrainian-American family, according to the army’s press service.

And on the smaller end, restaurants with electronic menus offer customers the chance to donate small sums to the military while paying their bills.

Yuriy Chevala contributed reporting from Lviv, Ukraine.