Alexander Shmelev described a refugee arriving in a bathrobe after a thirty-hour drive to Pristaniste, a shelter in Montenegro. The shelter was opened on the 5th of March, only weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine. The woman who arrived in a bathrobe lived fifteen hundred miles far away in Kharkiv. After the shelling started, the woman took her kids and drove in her car all the way to the shelter.
The shelter is a multifamily home helping seventy-eight refugees across Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. The refugees can take a rest and decide on their next step whether they are going to stay in the same country, and become legal citizens in Montenegro or move to a different country.
Within the time period, the paperwork was finalized to name the shelter Pristaniste, it received a bank account by June, and a fund of fifty thousand dollars has already been raised in terms of crypto. Other projects helping the displaced across other countries use cryptocurrency as an extra channel to receive funds.
Founders of these charities usually face obnoxious behavior in foreign countries and counterattack from their own country, Russia. After the war started, the Russians were cut off from the worldwide payment system as sanctions were imposed. Crypto today has become one of the quickest ways to help with cross-border payments.
The best part about crypto is that it is convenient for the activists to receive and send immediate help to the refugees. The abroad payments are best for shelters as traditional payment methods require paperwork, and take a lot of time to obtain. Crypto is often considered the safest form of donation after fiat currencies. Russian activists who want to help Ukrainian face threats at home can use crypto to avoid causing treason.
After the Russian invasion, a million people in Ukraine left the country. Many Russians were also feeling unsafe in their own home. This led to an increase in the number of activists, NGOs, and independent journalists, and rumors of an incoming global war rally consisting of Russians that looked for shelter in Armenia, Turkey, Georgia, etc.
No matter where they went, Ukraine refugees are present everywhere. Involuntary migrants often had to share the same shelters under similar support teams of volunteers who planned to build a safe place from the war with limited resources and zero help from local councils.
According to data gathered by a worldwide research firm, Pristaniste arranged to raise more than $43,500 in different cryptocurrencies. Moreover, a new campaign for children’s education in Montenegro raised $10,000 in crypto. Crypto donations exceeded $53,000 by the early month of July. The amount is almost twice the one raised in fiat currency.
However, since Pristaniste added a new bank account in Montenegro in June and created a new campaign GoFundMe the crypto donation flow decreased. For Russians with no SWIFT-compatible bank accounts, crypto is the only way to donate a small amount that is not worth the high compensation of interbank SWIFT transfer.
The activist stated that they were initially scared to keep the Ukrainian and Russian refugees separate. But, after the first couple that stayed, nothing unusual took place. After all, there is no separation between them and no disputes. Shmelev recalled that a family that stayed in the shelter for some time wrote, “It’s an odd time when friends become strangers, and strangers become friends.”
The Pristaniste and Ukrainians who host refugees from Belarus participated in the protests of 2020, and fled the country in the fear of repression, along with activists, and journalists to avoid harassment, jail time, and police raids.
For the Russians, the condition was worse as their bank accounts were no longer operational across borders due to sanctions imposed by the European Union and the USA. MasterCard and Visa ceased processing payments in the issued debit cards and other global payment systems like Wise, Remitly, MoneyGram, Western Union and more stopped serving the Russian users.
A foundation was formed across the Telegram application and a team of volunteers that connected online. A team of thirty Ukrainians, Russians, and Belarussians residing in Tbilisi are ready to welcome twenty-five refugees from Ukraine in a rented house for them to stay and rest for a while. The NGO is not yet registered and the team still managed to raise $4900 to rent the house.
The majority of the funds are received through the personal bank of the founder. However, bank transfers are not the best way to send money as the majority of the amount is used as processing fees. For the majority of the volunteers, 10% of the donations are received through crypto. Small donations to large amounts are all received through stablecoins USDT. Since April, the wallet has received more than sixty transactions and over nine thousand dollars in USDT.
Any Russian who is willing to help Ukrainian can use crypto as it is the most viable option to send as much as possible. Ethos, a fund created by Russian ex-pats, helps to rent apartments in Armenia and assist with medicines, and sanitary products. The fund receives significant donations in Ether, BNB, Tron, and USB. Blockchain analytics demonstrate, a collection of $1100 USDT has been made.
Since it is not safe to send money to help Ukrainians, crypto is the safest way to do so. Citizens were warned by the attorney general in the first weeks of the war to help the refugees from foreign states. Although there have been no known instances of people punished for supporting, crypto can help Russian citizens to hide such actions and work anonymously.
Protesting against the Ukraine invasion was illegal in Russia as soon as the war started. According to the new law, opposing the army of Russians may result in fifteen years of jail time. On the 8th of July, a member of the Moscow municipal council, Aleksei Gorinov was convicted of seven years in prison after speaking against the war during the council session. Cryptocurrencies have been integral in allowing people to help others in time of need, bypassing government interventions and offering anonymity to the contributor.