Kyiv, October 2, 2014. As the Ukrainian parliamentary election campaign swings into full gear, more than a billion hryvnias is being spent on campaigning and advertising expenses. As an unstable ceasefire against Russia-backed separatists continues in the war-torn east of Ukraine, some citizens are questioning the exorbitant amount of money being diverted to the election. The organizations “Open Dialog” and “Wings of Phoenix” have launched a civic initiative to redirect advertising costs towards funding for reconnaissance drones. This was stated by the initiative’s organizers at Ukraine Crisis Media Center in Kyiv.
“We think that such huge expenditures on billboards and other similar things is incorrect. We would like part of this to go to the support of our military,” said Pavlo Kukhta, the coordinator of the initiative. He called on politicians to redirect their campaign funds going towards billboards, and instead donate money towards reconnaissance drones for Ukrainian military units in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian military has faced funding cuts since Ukrainian independence in 1991, and drones are among the most necessary equipment given the present conditions at the front. “Our army does not have anything, while the separatists are using modern weapons they’ve got from the Russians,” Kukhta stated. The civic initiative is currently gathering data to compare the funds spent on campaigning to the funds spent on support of Ukraine’s soldiers.
In particular, the civic initiative says that drones are in particularly high demand by Ukrainian military units. Drones are not provided to the military by the government in Kyiv, and thus soldiers must resort to private funding in order to buy these essential reconnaissance tools. “We believe that short range drones are more important and more useful for our servicemen than bigger drones,” Kukhta stated. Each small-range drone costs from three to five thousand United States dollars, can stay in the air for about an hour, and has a range of more than a kilometer.
The joint initiative of “Wings of Phoenix” and “Open Dialogue” hopes to solicit the support of President Petro Poroshenko’s political party, which is running for parliament, as well as the other political factions. Nelli Stelmakh, from “Wings of Phoenix,” hopes that every Ukrainian unit in the east will eventually receive a drone. “For a modern army you need drones in every platoon,” she said. The initiative stressed that they will coordinate their actions with the Ministry of Defense in order to ensure that drones and military equipment are distributed correctly and efficiently.