Monday 6 June 2022 11:49 AM Putin's troops are 'relying on basic equipment bought and donated by civilians' trends now
Russia's air force is now turning to crowdfunding to source basic equipment needed to continue its operations in Ukraine after just three months of conflict.
Images posted on Russian aviation Telegram channel Fighterbomber showed a series of radios, flashlights, binoculars and even pilot helmets, visors and oxygen masks that were funded or sourced by some of the channel's 125,000 subscribers.
In one image, a squadron of Russian pilots can be seen posing in front of what appears to be a worn Su-25 fighter jet with an assortment of crowdfunded equipment including their pilots' helmets.
One pilot is lacking a pair of military-issue boots and was forced to wear a pair of running shoes, showcasing the extent to which Russia's fighting forces have been deprived of proper kit.
Many of the messages on the pro-war channel displayed support for the crowdfunding efforts and offered encouragement to the Russian pilots and servicemen.
But other users openly condemned Russia's military leaders for allowing their forces to be so woefully under-prepared.
'I have no words for this... the generals and their plebeians have been sitting on the military budget for years - now ordinary people have to rally around their army and help it with supplies!' one channel subscribed commented.
There have been widespread reports of Russian soldiers being ordered into battle with ageing weapons, poor rations and little to no medical supplies, even in the early days of the war.
A squadron of Russian pilots pose in front of a worn Su-25 fighter jet, emblazoned with the infamous 'Z' symbol, holding an assortment of crowdfunded equipment including their pilots' helmets. One pilot is even lacking standard issue military boots and is stood in running shoes
Images posted on Russian aviation Telegram channel Fighterbomber showed a series of radios, flashlights, binoculars and even pilot helmets, visors and oxygen masks that were funded or sourced by some of the channel's 125,000 subscribers
A Russian soldier stands holding a new radio and binoculars donated by Russian civilians
A Russian soldier is pictured displaying the latest equipment afforded to him thanks to crowdfunding. He is holding a new pair of binoculars and also has a new phone and a small scout drone
The war in Ukraine is perhaps the first major armed conflict in which both sides have leveraged social media to crowdfund the war effort.
Ukraine's Armed Forces have benefited from international aid, receiving large consignments of small arms, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, drones, military vehicles and even some long range missiles and heavy artillery from NATO countries.
But hundreds of crowdfunding initiatives - both government-backed and independent - have been set up and promoted on social media to drum up the maximum amount of funding possible in Ukraine and abroad.
Last week, a Lithuanian crowdfunding campaign launched by journalist Andrius Tapinas raised more than 5 million euros in just five days to purchase a Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 - an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which has proved to be invaluable to Ukraine's military for locating and destroying Russian tank units.
The drone's manufacturer, Baykar, was so impressed by the outpouring of support from the Lithuanian public that they decided to offer the drone free of charge, freeing up the funds to purchase more armaments as well as humanitarian aid projects.
A Ukrainian colonel told German media organisation DW that crowdfunding campaigns are 'of critical importance' to Ukraine's war effort, and said the funds are typically used to purchase and maintain high-end equipment like armoured vehicles, drones and surveillance systems.
Russia's crowdfunding efforts however appear to be focused on providing the bare necessities for troops.
There has been some evidence of Russian forces deploying crowdfunded UAVs and other high-end equipment, but the majority of reports suggest the bulk of the funding is dedicated to sourcing basic essentials such as field radios, medical supplies, binoculars and small arms.
The widespread condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine means the Russian public's crowdfunding efforts lack support from foreign citizens and thus can only drum up meagre sums.
One Russian citizen responsible for orchestrating a crowdfunding programme in Belgorod - a city close to Ukraine's border - told the Telegraph that two of the most popular requests from the frontlines are for thermal imaging equipment and shovels,