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Alberta man returns from Ukraine, converts Russian weapons into money for drones

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Alberta man returns from Ukraine, converts Russian weapons into money for drones
WATCH: A man from Airdire has just returned from three weeks on the front lines in Ukraine training soldiers how to use drones. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, he's using creative ways to raise money to help the war effort, including selling bits of Russian rockets – Jul 31, 2023

Yevgen Mykhaylichenko is an expert in using drones for traditional and autonomous farming at Olds College in Alberta, but since the war started in Ukraine, the Airdrie man has made seven trips back to his homeland to deliver drones and teach soldiers how to use them.

“Its hard when you come to the brigades and you realize that some of the guys whom you visited before are killed. I just chatted with him a few days ago and he was alive,” Mykhaylichenko said.

He said Ukrainian soldiers are fighting hard but many are tired, not having been able to get a break.

“Especially if it’s a 20-year-old guy —  just like a teenager. He has seen a lot of dead bodies of his friends and needs help,” Mykhaylichenko said.

Ukrainian soldiers work with Canadians to support the front lines of the war. Courtesy of: Yevgen Mykhaylichenko

The drones brought from Alberta have delivered first aid, food and water to Ukrainian soldiers stranded for days in the grey zone.

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“The drone dropped medicine and water for the guys from 10 Brigade who were lost for six days and they couldn’t find their way back home. The drone helped them to do this. It dropped water and a notice to say, ‘Follow the drone and we will track you out.’ It saved their lives,” Mykhaylichenko said.

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“Even a simple binocular or night vision camera can save a few lives and the same with drones.”

Mykhaylichenko realized that he needed a new way to raise funds. So he started offering hands-on drone demonstrations, including at an event in Sylvan Lake last week.

“Some people came closer to the remote control and started operating the drone. Some of them it wasn’t the first time, but they had never known that the drone could be so effective on the front line, especially with saving human lives. We showed people how this simple drone, which cost $2,500 for example, can save human lives,” Mykhaylichenko said.

He’s also selling key chains made from bits of Russian rockets that landed on Ukrainian soil, converting Russian weapons into money for drones.  He points to one that was from Bakhmut, which has information engraved on it like the date and the GPS coordinates from where it was found.

Having a personal connection has been important for donors, whether through key chains or flags brought back from the front line.

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For me, personally, it was all about making a personal connection,” said Robert Saik who has been donating since the war started and hosted a fundraiser in Sylvan Lake recently.

“Knowing that the drones that we bought were going to be delivered directly to the front line and getting a flag back from people who are receiving them was very heartwarming,” Saik said.

“The chilling part, the sobering part of those flags are that several of those signatures do not exist anymore. The people who signed those flags are dead now,” he said.

Since the war started Mykhaylichenko said he has delivered around 140 drones to Ukraine. Donation to his efforts can be made here.

 

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