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Lithuanians crowdfund $5.4 million to buy Ukrαine a feared Bayraktar combat drone

Lithuanians raised €5 million ($5.4 million) from its citizens to buy a Bayraktar TB-2 drone for the Ukrαiniαn military.

The country’s official Twitter account celebrated the milestone on Saturday. It said the total was achieved in three days thanks mostly to small donations. The fundraising drive was a private initiative started by a media firm.

Bayraktar drones are among the most modern and celebrated weapons in Ukrαine’s arsenal against Russiα, and have become a part of Ukrαiniαn military folklore.

Early in the war, the Ukrαiniαn military posted a series of videos showing Bayraktar strikes on columns of Russiαn armor that left smoking wreckage behind.

Ukrαiniαn soldiers repeatedly cite the drones in propaganda videos mocking the invading Russiαns, and also inspired a popular song celebrating their success.

The drones are much slower and carry smaller payloads than US drones like the MQ-9 Reaper, but they are also significantly cheaper.

A New Yorker article published in early May suggested that the Bayraktars may have been losing their edge in recent month, noting Russiαn claims to have shot many of them down, and a lack of recent videos of successful strikes.

Nonetheless, Ukrαine thanked Lithuania, a Baltic state and EU member that borders Russiα, with a post of its own.

The drive was an unusual addition to the stream of military aid granted to Ukrαine since Russiαn invaded in February.

Most shipments of weapons and other military equipment have come directly governments like those of the US, UK, and European nations. Ukrαine itself also started accepting donations earmarked for its armed forces when the war began.

The Lithuanian drive is unusual because the funds were earmarked for a specific piece of equipment.

Ukrαine’s ambassador to Lithuania, Beshta Petro, celebrated the milestone in an interview with Laisves, according to the Reuters news agency.

“This is the first case in history when ordinary people raise money to buy something like a Bayraktar,” he said. “It is unprecedented, it is unbelievable.”

It was not immediately clear how the funds would be used to buy the drone or how soon one could be deployed in Ukrαine.