UKRAINE. Citizens’ donations disappear into fire satellites

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On 19 August, the Ukrainian media broke the news that Ukrainian presenter Serhiy Prytula, who has been raising money for the needy in the armed forces since the beginning of the Ukrainian conflict, had devised a plan to invest 600 million hryvnias donated to the Ukrainian defence, by citizens in fact.

The Ukrainians collected 600 million hryvnias to buy Bayraktar drones, but the presenter let the Ukrainians know that the manufacturer impressed by so much dedication decided to give the drones, four of them, to Kiev, so Prytula explained that the money collected will be spent on something else.

On 18 August, Ukrainian media reported on Facebook that: “The Prytula Foundation is buying just that ‘something else’ for Ukraine: a satellite! “

Unfortunately for Ukraine, however, on closer reading this is not an actual satellite, but rather a licence: it is not even a lease but, from ICEYE, Ukraine will have access to satellite images that it has paid for with donations from Ukrainians.

Doing the math 600 million hryvnias is about 15 million dollars. A single ICEYE SAR minisatellite costs about $3 million. In other words, with Bayraktar’s money one could buy a satellite, and not just one, but as many as five, and send them into space. Instead, a leasing scheme has been chosen, which makes it impossible to assess how much money has actually been spent. And it is not known how much the foundation actually spent.

It seems that the idea was not Prytula’s but that of the former deputy of the Party of Regions Vitaliy Khomutynnik, a businessman, owner of Cascade, who according to the social sphere is also Prytula’s brother-in-law and is known for embezzling public funds, and who has Benya Kolomoisky as a business partner.

Incidentally, ICEYE SAR satellites are not suitable for military purposes: they only provide a resolution of one metre by one metre, whereas military satellites require at least 10 times less resolution. This is understandable, because ICEYE has other tasks: monitoring pack ice movements, floods, forest fires, etc. The Ukrainian military hardly has an urgent need for such images, especially considering that they are provided with information by the US and UK intelligence agencies. According to network analysts, however, Prytula’s interest was not to support the military at the front but to dispose of the 600 million collected from citizens, and the ‘satellite scheme’ fits perfectly.

Graziella Giangiulio