Near Protocol Founder: Ukraine Shows How Crypto ‘Delivers Aid Directly To People’

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, millions of cryptocurrency donations have found their way into the digital wallets of Ukraine’s government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the region.

According to blockchain analytics firm Elliptic, Ukraine raised $63 million in crypto donations within two weeks of the invasion.

“At the beginning, [cryptocurrency] was a lifeline,” said Illia Polosukhin, co-founder of Near Protocol decrypt at Messari Mainnet in New York City. Ukrainian-born Polosukhin says the first thing he thought of when he heard that Russia had invaded Ukraine was how he could help.

Polosukhin said that when he decided to donate funds to Ukraine, his concerns were centered on Ukraine’s financial sector and whether banks would still exist. “If you send a transfer, it may arrive, it may not arrive, there may not be a bank tomorrow,” he said.

Because of these concerns, Polosukhin said he decided to donate cryptocurrency instead. “Crypto is actually a safe option,” says Polosukhin. “It’s fast and we could deliver capital employed.”

Shortly thereafter, Polosukhin recalls, he joined forces with other founders to launch the Unchain Fund project, which uses cryptocurrency to support global causes – one of the broad ideals of the crypto movement.

“It’s resilient, it’s fast, it’s delivering help directly to people,” he said.

Several big names in blockchain have donated to Ukraine, including Ethereum co-founders Vitalik Buterin and Gavin Wood, and FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, who co-founded an official crypto donation site with crypto staking provider Everstake called Aid for Ukraine brought into being.

While there is no exact accounting of how much cryptocurrency donations Ukraine has received, an April 2022 report by the Financial Times states that the total amount is more than $100 million.

Polosukhin says that while crypto donations to Ukraine have slowed, the Unchain Fund is still active in the region. At one point, Polosukhin says, the fund had as many as 5,000 volunteers working in Ukraine. In September, the Unchain Fund partnered with Ukraine’s DAO and Atlantis World to launch the Kyiv Tech Summit, which included a panel discussion with Ethereum co-founder and Ukrainian contributor Vitalik Buterin.

In August, Buterin said he used the now-sanctioned Tornado cash mixing service and privacy tool to donate to Ukraine, a day after the US Treasury Department blacklisted the site.

Polosukhin says the purpose of the summit was to draw attention to Web3 developers in Ukraine.

“Ukrainian developers are outsourcing,” Polosukhin said decrypt. “Many companies and their customers have cut ties with Ukrainian companies because their risk model cannot detect this [working with] a company in a country at war.”

For Polosukhin, Web3 and cryptocurrency are ways to break this mess, and he hopes more people will get involved in developing solutions using blockchain technology.

“Web3 doesn’t care,” he says. “[It] no matter where you come from or where you go. If you build and deliver great products and solve people’s problems, you will be rewarded.”

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