Ukrainian volunteer group raises $4 million in bitcoin since Russian invasion, research shows

FILE PHOTO: A bitcoin is seen in an illustration picture taken at La Maison du Bitcoin in Paris, France, June 23, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - A Ukrainian volunteer group that provides equipment to the country's army has received over $4 million in bitcoin donations since Russia launched its invasion on Thursday, according to blockchain analysis firm Elliptic.

London-based Elliptic said earlier this month that donations to Ukrainian volunteer and hacking groups had soared as Russian troops massed near the border. Since the invasion, however, it has tracked transfers of much larger sums to these groups.

One Ukrainian volunteer group, Come Back Alive, received $3 million in a single bitcoin donation alone on Friday, Elliptic said, though the identity of those behind the donations was unclear as bitcoin and other tokens can be sent and received anonymously.

Missiles pounded Kyiv on Friday and families cowered in bomb shelters as Russian forces pressed their advance and authorities said they were girding for an assault aimed at overthrowing the government.

Kyiv-based Come Back Alive, which says it provides kit and medical supplies to Ukraine's army including drones and sniper-rifle scopes, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The group told Reuters earlier this month that it had raised cryptocurrency worth $167,000 in over a dozen transactions between August and early February. At the time, Come Back Alive said the funds remained unused and that it was saving cryptocurrency-denominated donations for "future projects."

The spike in donations underscores the growing role of cryptocurrencies in online fundraising, partly because anonymity allows organisations to raise money even if financial firms do not allow, or impose strict checks on, transfers of funds.

Ukraine tightened checks on transfers of funds in 2020 to curb money laundering, demanding ID verification for some domestic cash transfers. Cross-border transfers are also subject to mandatory monitoring.

(Reporting by Tom Wilson; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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