Lithuanians crowdfund $5.4m for combat drone to Ukraine

Lithuanians donated millions in just three days for Ukraine’s military to buy Turkey’s Byraktar unmanned aerial vehicle to target Russian forces.

A Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone
The drone has proven effective in recent years against Russian forces and their allies in conflicts in Syria and Libya [File: Efrem Lukatsky/AP]

Hundreds of Lithuanians contributed to a fundraiser to buy an advanced military drone for Ukraine in its war against Russia in a show of solidarity with a fellow country formerly under Moscow’s rule.

The target of 5 million euros ($5.4m) was raised in just three and a half days in Lithuania – a country of 2.8 million people – largely in small amounts to fund the purchase of a Byraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicle from Turkey.

Laisves TV, a Lithuanian internet broadcaster, launched the fund-raising drive.

“Before this war started, none of us thought that we would be buying guns. But it’s a normal thing now. Something must be done for the world to get better,” said Agne Belickaite, 32, who sent 100 euros as soon as the effort began last week.

“I’ve been donating to buy guns for Ukraine for a while now, and will do so until the victory,” she said, adding she was motivated in part by fears Russia could attack Lithuania.

“While governments of the world’s largest countries are endlessly deliberating … Lithuanian society simply comes together.”

Laisves TV said it would transfer the funds to Lithuania’s defence ministry, which will buy the drone and its munitions.

The drone has proven effective in recent years in conflicts in Syria and Libya, and its purchase is being orchestrated by Lithuania’s defence ministry, which said it planned to sign a letter of intent to buy the aircraft from Turkey next week.

“Novel, unexpected fundraisers fire people up again. It’s the third month of the invasion… it’s important to avoid getting used to it,” Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte told Laisves TV.

Ukraine has bought more than 20 Bayraktar TB2 armed drones from Turkish company Baykar in recent years and ordered another 16 on January 27. That batch was delivered in early March.

“This is the first case in history when ordinary people raise money to buy something like a Bayraktar. It is unprecedented, it is unbelievable,” Petro Beshta, Ukraine’s ambassador to Lithuania, told Laisves TV.

The Baltic state has demonstrated its full support for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on February 24.

In the beginning of April, Lithuania together with Latvia and Estonia announced stopping the imports of Russian natural gas as they try to curb reliance on Russian energy in the wake of the Ukraine war.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda visited Kyiv “with a strong message of political support and military assistance” together with Poland’s president in April.

The defence ministry said it will transfer 20 M113 armoured personnel carriers and other equipment, worth a total of 15.5 million euros, to Ukraine.

Lithuania has expelled four Russian diplomats in a coordinated move with Bulgaria, Latvia, and Estonia for “activities that are contrary to their diplomatic status and taking into account ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine”, Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies