Russia-Ukraine War: Arweave and Cryptocurrencies as Force for Good in Armed Conflict

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Days into the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in a war where hundreds have been killed and injured and structures damaged in attacks from the air, land and sea, tension continues to grow as the war escalates into actions that bring hardship on the people. Across cities in Ukraine, sirens alerting residents to overhead bombings, wail as people dash for the nearest bomb shelter.

Some safety tips shared among Ukrainians days before the war began advised residents to prepare emergency evacuation bags or bug-out bags with documents, memorabilia such as pictures and other necessities. But images of people wheeling bags and carrying backpacks that permeated the internet reflect how difficult it is for people to fit the whole of their lives in boxes.

“People have a tendency to over pack. For one, because it can be difficult to gauge what actually is ‘essential’ especially from the perspective of someone who has never experienced emergency displacement,” said Callista Womick, a Crisis Management consultant. “Naturally, people want to bring emotionally significant items, valuables and family heirlooms. For a bug-out bag, I do recommend people include family photographs because they can be useful in helping to locate loved ones in the aftermath of an emergency situation.”

Although Womick said it could be a good idea to store photographs and documents on digital archives, she advised that physical copies could give added layers of security because internet and electricity may not always be available in emergency situations.

Indeed, physical copies of pictures and documents could be lost amidst the chaos that follows humanitarian disaster caused by war. There is also the tendency that if left behind while fleeing, owners are not certain that their documents, pictures and other items and would not be lost to theft or destroyed if houses and buildings are bombed.

In times of peace and war, Arweave’s applicability extends beyond storing pictures and documents. Cyberattacks are common in times of war and Ukraine has seen many of it since hostilities began. Ukraine had accused Russia of attacking its defence ministry and the interfaces of the largest banks in the country. Russia has denied the allegations.

Saving on a decentralised storage platform such as Arweave, will ensure access anywhere using regular browsers. In a one-time payment arrangement, contents are stored permanently for two centuries.  Built on Blockweave, which functions like blockchain, contents stored on Arweave are immutable; a feature that is useful in preventing text, audio and video from being manipulated in fake news and propaganda campaign.

If the databases of online platforms domiciled in Ukraine are hit and crippled in cyberattacks or air raids, the operations of affected platforms could be grounded, worsening the challenges many are already feeling due to the crisis. Part of Arweave’s architecture are nodes or computers in different locations all over the world, potentially making an outage caused by cyberattack or censorship on some computers have little impact on the availability of stored contents.

Content on the Russia-Ukraine war, such as text and videos from news websites and social media platforms including Twitter and Reddit are being archived on Arweave already. Over five million pieces of data were saved permanently on Arweave one week after the initiative was launched. The number has grown to 12 million as of the time of writing. The archived content could be consulted by researchers and investigators to understand issues around the Russia-Ukraine war.  

The suspension of electronic cash transfers by the National Bank of Ukraine following the Ukrainian government’s declaration of martial law has affected digital money platforms such as Paypal and Venmo and resulted in long queues at banks and automated teller machines. The delay resulted in some men being trapped within the country and conscripted into the military following the government’s order.

A web project manager with Helios Fund, a cryptocurrency investment platform who gave his name as DmytroLTV for his safety, as he has now volunteered with a cyber-warfare team countering Russia’s propaganda, attributed his ability to leave Ukraine before the conscription order to Bitcoin.

“…Then we wanted to withdraw money but the queues were extrememly long… I also tried to make a SWIFT payment but the national bank of my country blocked all international transactions. If I had waited, I would not have been able to cross the border… I exchanged BTC to polish cash,” DmytroLTV told Arweave News.

“If not Bitcoin, I would not be able to eat and live right now.”

It is not just Ukrainians that have found cryptocurrencies useful since the war broke out. The government has received donations in Bitcoin, Ethereum, Doge coin and Polka Dot to fund the war and provide its citizens with humanitarian assistance. Lucrative nonfungible tokens or NFTs have also being donated to the country. Over $30 million in cryptocurrency has been reported to be donated to the Ukrainian government.  

How emerging technologies, including cryptocurrency and Arweave’s permaweb are being used in the Russia-Ukraine war, supports the opinion by some observers that technology, regardless of its darkside, could still be used for a good cause.  

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