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Donations to Ukraine aid organizations five times lower at end of 2023 than start

Buses donated to Ukraine.
Buses donated to Ukraine. Source: ERR

The amount of donations received by major Ukrainian aid organizations in Estonia at the end of 2023 was five times lower than at the beginning of the year. Individuals, companies and organizations in Estonia donated over €3 million in total to Ukrainian aid organizations last year.

Donations to major Ukrainian aid organizations were particularly high in the first few months of 2023. While in the first three months of 2023, the six largest organizations in Estonia received nearly €1,790,000 in donations, in the last three months that figure was almost five times lower at €320,000.

Information regarding donations received by each organization are shown as of December 27. At the time of this article's original publication in Estonian, Mondo had no information regarding December donations available.

The volunteer Rescue Association (Päästeliit) collected the most donations over the year, totaling €1,266,713. The bulk of this, nearly €1,100,000, came from the MV-4 demining robot of UG Investments, a holding company run by Kristjan Rahu, Priit Koidu and Valdur Laid. This large donation aside, the Rescue Association raised €101,000.

 Slava Ukraini also received over €1 million in donations for the year. Slava Ukraini was by far the largest Ukraine aid fundraiser prior to scandal involving previous CEO Johanna-Maria Lehtme. While in March the organization raised €342,293 in donations, in April it raised just €52,569, followed by €18,453 in May. In the last three months of the year, the organization raised an average of €5,760 per month

In 2023, €297,924 was donated to Free Ukraine (Vaba Ukraina), €132,837 to Support Ukraine (Toeta Ukrainat), €211,795 to the Estonian Red Cross and €101,073 to the Estonian Refugee Council. The NGO Mondo received €367,227 in donations between January and November.

Karlskroona, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler, donated €100,000 in April, accounting for almost half of the donations made to the Estonian Red Cross. The money donated by the company has been used to keep Ukrainian hospitals and rehabilitation centers running during the war.

Liis Ehrminger, communications manager of the Estonian Red Cross, said that in addition to Karlskroona, other major donors included supermarket chain Selver (€34,893), JetGas OÜ (€10,000) and VPI International OÜ (€10,000).

Slava Ukraini has a new team, structure and focus

According to Anu Viltrop, who took over as Slava Ukraini CEO from Marika Priske at the beginning of July, the organization has now undergone a clean-up. The whole team is new, the organization has agreed-upon working procedures, a detailed overview of the organization's income and expenses is available on its website and a good practice for fundraising operations was adopted at the end of November.

Viltrop said that negotiations are currently under way with previous major donors to once again donate funds to Ukraine via Slava Ukraini. The Rotary Club of Tallinn Old Town (Tallinn Vanalinn Rotary Klubi) for instance has already decided to renew its support for Slava Ukraini.

"I have no expectation, desires, nor [is there any] possibility that Slava Ukraini will be exactly as it was at the beginning of full-scale aggression. This is because the environment has changed - people's feelings about donating to Ukraine are not the same anymore. Secondly, the team has also changed, the team is very much the face of the organization," said Viltrop.

Viltrop has not had any contact with Johanna-Maria Lehtme over the last six months.

"When I came to Slava Ukraini at the beginning of July, the financial part of the annual report was together, but the content was not. I had a lot of questions for Lehtme there and I wrote to her about it, but I have not received any reply," said Viltrop.

According to Viltrop, Slava Ukraini has narrowed its focus and is now concentrating on the procurement of guerrilla ambulances, or evacuation vehicles, for the Ukrainian military. In the last six months, 19 guerrilla ambulances have been built, while next year the aim is to build another 20, plus ten all-terrain vehicles (ATV) at a total cost of around €290,000.

Mondo and Free Ukraine are Estonia's largest Ukraine aid organizations

While at the start of 2023, Slava Ukraini received the largest amount of donations, in the fall, Mondo raised the most funds for Ukraine, bringing in almost €100,000. The figures do not include donations made in December, as Mondo did not yet have that information available at the time of writing.

Mondo's Communications Manager Kelli Eek pointed said the organization restored eleven homes in Kyiv, Mykolaiv and Kherson oblasts in 2023 and renovated a shelter in Khmelnitsky Oblast, providing a safe place for 35 IDPs (internally displaced persons). On top of that, around 400 families in the region also received hygiene kits to help alleviate the effects of the flooding in Kherson.

NGO Support Ukraine CEO Ants Erm said his organization raised more than €120,000 in 2023, and since the beginning of last year has made a total of 33 aid missions to Ukraine.

"With 18 aid missions last year, we have delivered more than 30 tonnes of tactical, medical, humanitarian and food aid to Ukraine. This includes over 40 vehicles, mortars, drones, night observation equipment, as well as eight carts of tires and over two tonnes of humanitarian aid for distribution to the Kharkiv Estonian Society in the liberated regions of eastern Ukraine (Kharkiv, Sumy, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts)," Erm said.

Jekaterina Kalinitseva from the Estonian Refugee Council (Eesti Pagulasabi) said that the organization's funding to support Ukraine comes mainly from institutional donors such as the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Donations are therefore used to co-finance its activities.

"We are currently implementing a large-scale cash-based assistance program in Ukraine in the Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson and Mykolaiv oblasts. We are providing multi-purpose cash-based assistance (UAH 3,600 per person per month) to people in need, as well as cash-based assistance for the purchase of solid fuel in winter, the dismantling of damaged housing, the start of agricultural activities, winterization of housing for live animals and for the purchase of animal feed in winter," Kalinitseva said.

Free Ukraine (Vaba Ukraina), which brought in almost €300,000 in donations in 2023, is now raising money for both medical and technical supplies. The medical supplies include trauma bags and stretchers, as well as hemostatic dressings and gels. As for technical supplies, power banks and Starlink adapter cables are being purchased for Ukraine's 130th Battalion.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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