To continue reporting independent news in Russia under the censorship and propaganda of the Russian government, a Russian independent news agency has raised cryptocurrency donations in excess of US$250,000 from supporters.
Meduza, a Latvian-based Russian language news site, has been asking for donations in USD, EUR, and cryptocurrency since April 2021. These include Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum(ETH), Binance [BNB], Tether (USDT), Monero/XMR, and zcash (“ZEC”).
The news company has received approximately US$250,000 in crypto donations via 146,000 individual transactions since publishing their plea for donations. The total amount of donations was 93% in the form 3.75 BTC (116,954) and 49.9 Ethereum (117,767).
Folks, Meduza’s crowdfunding has been redesigned after it was disconnected from its Russian supporters. To replace the 30k donors, we now turn to you, our global audience. Keep the Russians and the rest of the world updated about the ongoing war against Ukraine. https://t.co/y83ieV9LuT
— Meduza in English (@meduza_en) March 14, 2022
Meduza’s financial troubles began in April 2021 when it was labelled as “foreign agents” by Russia’s Justice Ministry. The company had to put a large warning text in all Russian-language articles, informing the readers about its “foreign agent status.” Nearly all of its advertisers lost their advertising revenue because the same warning was required in all ads. It stated in its FAQ about donations:
“As you can see, very few companies will pay for their products to be promoted without a warning about the fact that the content was “created foreign agents.”
Russian readers were not prohibited from making donations to the organization despite being labeled as foreign agents. The company quickly set up a way for donors to make payments to regulators through their banks via payment processor Stripe or through crypto.
Meduza was hit hard by the combined effects of Western sanctions and Russian government censorship in March. Russian authorities blocked its website for “disseminating illegal information.” It was also blocked from receiving donations from Russian supporters due to a ban on SWIFT for Russian banks.
SWIFT, a global financial messaging system used by financial institutions for international money transfers, is an example of this.
Meduza stated on their donation website that Russia’s financial restrictions made it impossible to receive donations from Russian supporters.
The news agency and its journalists have published daily updates about Russia’s war on Ukraine since February 25, sharing images and stories of Ukrainian civilians affected by the war, and also providing information and links to other important events that are not covered by local Russian media.
Meduza wrote that “Millions of Russians now rely upon our reporting”, noting that its journalists were forced out of Russia.
“Transferring money from Russia to Europe was impossible since the start of this war. We lost 30,000 donators. We don’t receive any money from Russia right now.”
Bloomberg was informed by Ivan Kolpakov (editor-in-chief at Meduza), that the donations will be used to help the 25 journalists who fled the country in order to resettle in Riga. This is where the company’s headquarters are located.
Related: Why crypto regulation is necessary after the invasion of Ukraine
The Russian sanctions have not only impacted Meduza and its journalists. Reports in media over the past months have indicated that Russian students abroad, everyday Russians and entire countries’ civilian populations were all severely affected by Russian-facing sanctions.
Eileen Wilson –Technology and Energy
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