Patreon says it has suspended the crowdfunding page for “Come Back Alive,” a Ukrainian NGO that raised money to support the country’s military in response to Russian aggression. In a statement given to CNBC, the platform said it “does not allow campaigns involving violence or the purchase of military equipment, regardless of the cause.” The Come Back Alive page said the money would be used to train soldiers and provide technical equipment, according to Patreon’s blog post.
Come Back Alive’s Patreon page is dated at least May 2020, according to the Daily Point, but as of January 26 of this year, it had a modest 936 customers bringing in about $19,000 a month. That all changed this week after Russia invaded Ukraine, when the crowdfunding attracted a lot of attention and the membership list soared to more than 14,000 customers, contributing a total of $436,966 per month.
According to the Come Back Alive website, the NGO headquartered in Kiev aims to provide technical assistance to the Ukrainian military, such as providing night vision equipment and rehabilitating veterans. CNBC reports that the organization has also provided bulletproof vests, medical equipment and helmets to Ukrainian soldiers. But the branding of the NGO’s Patreon levels — including “Bullet,” “Projectile” and “Bomb” — led to confusion that funds were literally buying ammunition for the Ukrainian military.
The Ukrainian government itself is also directly asking for donations to aid in its war effort. A page on the country’s government website lists account details where money can be sent to “help the logistical and medical support of Ukraine’s armed forces.” Asking the public for money for war efforts is not an entirely new phenomenon, with countries like the United Kingdom and Germany selling war bonds during World War I to fund their military operations, for example. (Those bonds, however, were a form of debt that would be repaid on time, rather than direct donations.)
It’s not clear what happened to the money raised by Come Back Alive. The director of the organization, Taras Chmut, said: CNBC that he sees the message “This page has been deleted” when he tries to access the account and withdraw funds. But Patreon tells: CNBC its policy is to “send the creator the remaining money or refund all commitments” if a page is removed from its service.
“We are shocked and heartbroken by the invasion of Ukraine,” the Patreon blog post reads. “Like so many around the world, we are following this tragedy closely and wish the safety of the Ukrainian people at risk.” The company lists the Ukrainian Red Cross, Voices of Children and Revived Soldiers Ukraine as other charities and platforms that would benefit from donations.