Pussy Riot Member Helps Raise $6.7 Million With Ukraine Flag NFT

As the Russian assault on Ukraine stretched into its second week, a member of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot teamed up with UkraineDAO to offer up an NFT of the under-siege nation’s flag that has raised more than $6.7 million for relief to date.

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The funds earmarked for the country’s defenses came after Ukraine’s government announced that it will accept crypto donations in Bitcoin, Ethereum and USDT to fund the defense effort. According to organizers, the sale is the largest NFT-based crypto contribution to Ukraine’s war efforts to date and it was organized after Putin massed more than 100,000 troops on the country’s border and launched an offensive that has reportedly killed thousands of civilians over the past week.

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The effort took root after an online chat between Trippy Lab, PleasrDAO and Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova — whose protest band has gleefully been a been a thorn in Putin’s side for more than a decade — in which they invited “other people with various backgrounds in tech, contract experience, activists, artists, influencers, editors, media… truly a cross-section of people with a united goal to help Ukrainians on the ground immediately.”

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Rather than trying to create an object for sale, the group pivoted to offering a “symbol of the Ukrainian people rather than focused on a particular artist or aesthetic.” Over the past week, the country’s blue and yellow flag has become a symbol of protest, unity and solidarity across the globe, showing up in countless social media feeds as well as at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address from President Joe Biden.

In a tweet on Tuesday (March 2), Tolokonnikova doubled-down on her commitment to the truth and to the fight against dictator Putin’s unprovoked war. “I believe that we have just one life, and we have to live it in a way that we’re not going to be ashamed of ourselves on our deathbed,” she wrote. “I’m going against one of the most powerful individuals on the planet. Yeah, it implies certain risks, but I’m ready to live with these risks.”

Tolokonnikova was one of three members of Pussy Riot jailed in 2013 by Russian authorities after a protest against Russia’s human rights record ahead of that year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi; she was previously sentenced to two years in prison in 2012 on charges of “hooliganism” after a guerrilla performance in Moscow’s main cathedral in which they sang a “punk prayer” pleading with the Virgin Mary to save their country from Putin.

The Ukrainian flag NFT was produced as a single-edition on the Etherum blockchain with bidders invited to take shared ownership in the item, with contributions ranging from just under 3 cents to more than $128,000, with more than 3,200 individual bids in just over 72 hours, according to CNN. Organizers said all the funds will go to the “Come Back Alive” effort supporting Ukraine’s military, which has so far put up a staunch defense against the large Russian invasion force, with help from citizens who’ve done everything from making their own home-brewed Molotov cocktails to putting their bodies in front of tanks to stop their advance.

In a statement supporting the sale, Tolokonnikova said, “We purposefully avoided adding our own art to this release; in a way it’s our strong conceptual artistic statement. People can have different aesthetics, but it’s not about what color we prefer, it’s about uniting to save lives.”

As the world has come together to cut Russia off on many fronts — from canceling the premiere of such anticipated films as The Batman, to limiting the country’s ability to engage in the international banking system and sporting events and imposing crippling financial measures — Tolokonnikova told Yahoo! Entertainment that using the blockchain as an organizational tool made perfect sense.

“It helps us to scale our efforts globally, because these days we’re facing global issues like peace and war, climate change, global inequality, and all of these problems have to be addressed by the global community,” she said. “They cannot be solved just on a nation-state level. And I believe that blockchain allows us to communicate and organize our efforts without being sanctioned by governments or corporations… We talk about a possibility of nuclear war. Um, it’s not a joke. We’re talking about something that questions the existence of humanity.”

Calling Putin a “bloody dictator,” “war criminal” and a “terrorist that threatens the peace and survival of [the] human species,” Tolokonnikova said she thought the Russian leader’s warmongering would be worse if former president Trump were still in office; Trump hailed Putin’s aggressive actions as “genius” and “savvy” in the 24 hours after the assault began last week and suggesting in an interview that the U.S. could use that kind of strong “peace force” to secure its southern border.