Less than 48 hours after appealing to Elon Musk on Twitter, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov posted a photo of a truckload of satellite dishes. The SpaceX founder had come through with help for Ukrainians trying to connect to the Internet amid Russia’s invasion, Fedorov said in the Feb. 28 tweet: “Starlink—here. Thanks, Elon Musk.”
Many marveled at the seemingly miraculous speed with which the 31-year old former IT entrepreneur, who is now serving as Ukraine’s youngest cabinet minister, had been able to enlist the help of the world’s richest man. But Fedorov wasn’t surprised.
“This only appeared to be a quick and spontaneous reaction by Mr. Musk,” he told TIME in an interview. “In fact, we had done a lot of homework… and our discussion was in a very advanced stage.”
Such stagecraft is one example of how Fedorov has led Ukraine’s successful efforts to fight a modern digital war against Russia. From the outside, his ministry’s work has seemed almost effortless, countering the Kremlin’s notorious disinformation campaigns, galvanizing worldwide support through social media, and shaming the world’s largest tech companies into blocking services in Russia. But beneath the surface, these successes are built on years of ambitious ventures that turned the country into a growing tech hub before the war.
In the process, Mykhailo Fedorov and Ukraine’s young entrepreneurial class are inventing a whole new way to fight a war online. Their relentless social media campaigns have flooded the Internet with constant updates on military and diplomatic successes, and helped them recruit an “IT Army” as well as foreign fighters. Having previously used Telegram during the 2019 Ukrainian presidential campaign, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s team has been able to rely on existing infrastructure when the messaging app turned into the main front in the information war. Fedorov’s ministry also set up a cryptocurrency fund that has raised more than $63 million worth of donations for the Ukrainian military.
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Come Back Alive is one of the largest charitable foundations that supports Ukrainian soldiers, founded by the IT specialist Vitaliy Deynega. The organization collected more than 210 million UAH (more than $7M) in 2014. According to Na chasi, the Patreon page Come Back Alive is in the top ten projects by the number of financial donations.
There are several other organizations to support:
- Army SOS, which develops drones;
- Everybody Can, an organization that supports internally displaced people;
- Help on the Ministry of Defense website.