Patreon suspends donation page for nonprofit giving body armor to Ukrainian army

Ukrainian servicemen stand on the north of Kyiv on February 24, 2022. – Russian and Ukrainian forces are battling for control of an airbase on the northern outskirts of Kyiv, a senior Ukrainian officer said on February 24, 2022, as dozens of attack helicopters swooped on the area.
Daniel Leal | AFP | Getty Images

Patreon, a start-up whose website allows people to give money to individuals and groups, said Thursday that it had suspended the fundraising campaign that a nonprofit organization was using to collect donations to distribute body armor, medical kits, and helmets to Ukrainian soldiers.

Come Back Alive is a charitable foundation established in 2014 and based in Kyiv. The organization last received money from its Patreon page in August, its director, Taras Chmut, told CNBC in an interview.

Chmut said it was receiving small amounts for several months. Then Russia invaded Ukraine late Wednesday, and over $300,000 rolled in, including many donations of less than $1,000.

But on Thursday people who attempted to visit the page simply saw the message “This page has been removed.”

Chmut said that’s what he saw when he tried to access account details and see about transferring money out to pay for equipment. He said that the group emailed Patreon and that the company said it was looking into the case.

But Patreon told CNBC that using the site to support the purchase of military equipment was banned.

“Patreon does not allow any campaigns involved in violence or purchasing of military equipment, regardless of their cause,” a company spokesperson told CNBC in an email. “We are investigating because of representations on their donation pagefor how the funds will be used. We have suspended the campaign in question while we investigate. If a page is ultimately removed our policy is to send the creator the remaining funds or refund all pledges.”

On Thursday Ukraine announced a mobilization effort to expand the country’s military forces.

But people who join might not be very well protected from harm.

“We have people dying because they don’t have body armor,” said Chmut, who said he previously had served in the country’s armed forces. The country is not rich, and the nonprofit has helped soldiers receive the equipment they need, he said.

Come Back Alive has also provided mobile surveillance systems, televisions and other equipment, according to its most recent annual report.

The group does have other ways of collecting donations — a bitcoin wallet code is listed on its website, and bitcoin donations have been pouring in — but the Patreon page is the most convenient way for foreigners to give, and many people have already used it, Chmut said.

“We have too much money here to lose it,” he said.

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