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Ukraine's Military Is Raising Money Through Text Donations And It's Going To Need Them

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Ukraine's government came up with a novel campaign to solicit donations from the general public, and it appears to be paying off.

The country's beleaguered military force organized a public donations campaign, including a text donation service in March, one day before Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine. Within the first few days the security forces received around $1 million in support, according to the BBC. On Tuesday, the trouble-stricken country's defense ministry said that the public fundraising campaign has raised 124.7 million Ukrainian hryvnia (about $10 million) in donations from businesses and individuals, including 29.2 million hryvnia ($2.5 million) through text messages donating 5 hryvnyas (40 cents) each.

While the donations are just a fraction of Ukraine's 2013 defense budget of $5 billion, they are being welcomed as a rare piece of good news for the beleaguered force, the Associated Press reported.

"We'll use the money to buy the things we lack, like bulletproof helmets and medical supplies," Bogdan Buta, Ukraine's deputy defense minister told the news agency.

And it appears every donation counts, as Ukraine's military is facing the test of its lifetime.

As the New Republic explains, since Ukrainian independence in 1991 the military has not been able to update its Soviet-era structure, which is unfit for the formidable challenges facing the country today: a separatist insurgency, Russia's annexation Crimea and Russian troops massed at the border. Military reform has been hampered by Ukraine's spiraling debts under ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, as well as rampant corruption, according to the Washington Post.

By contrast, RFE/RL notes that Russia has an annual defense budget of $78 billion, four times as many troops and six times as many combat aircraft. This imbalance tipped even further when Russia took control of Crimea, a key Ukrainian naval hub. The Associated Press reports that Ukraine's fleet was reduced from 75 to 28 ships, noting that Russia even returned some vessels it said were too decrepit to use.

While Russia said this week it was pulling forces from the Ukrainian border, it was unclear how much respite this would give to Ukraine's depleted forces, who are still battling separatist rebels in the east.

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