Since 25 February the Open Dialogue Foundation has been on the forefront of both supporting the Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Poland, as well as – more uniquely – delivering humanitarian aid to those on the frontlines, specifically military-grade protective gear like bulletproof & anti-fragmentation vests or ballistic helmets, as well as other equipment like night-vision goggles, radio stations, drones or tactical accessories. Within the first 6 weeks we have provided some 20 thousand pieces of such equipment, including over 4500 bulletproof vests, all thanks to the generosity of our donors, who have given over 11 million zlotys to our cause (incl. PLN 3 million via our dedicated fundraiser at zrzutka.pl/PomocUkrainie). As documented recently by Onet.pl’s war correspondent Marcin Wyrwał, we are likely the only non-profit focused on this type of aid.
Every day on our social media channels (Twitter, Facebook) we publish photos, videos and messages from grateful recipients – brave Ukrainian men and women from Territorial Defence Forces (and occasionally others needing protection, like civil defence, journalists, firefighters or ambulance drivers), all of whom had no protection until they received it from us. Our campaign’s model is two-fold:
1) Through the donations we receive we procure equipment from any sources available – starting from local, Polish military surplus stores, then – after these run out – elsewhere in Europe, and finally from manufacturers and distributors around the world. This type of gear is either new and certified, or was originally made to military specifications, certified and used by the armed forces, but has since been sold to the civilian market while maintaining its ballistic parameters (e.g. steel ballistic inserts which don’t degrade over time, or kevlar/composite plates which were properly stored). Simultaneously we created our own production line of bulletproof vests, assembling complete, combat-ready vests from surplus plate carriers gathered around the world and bulletproof ballistic inserts we’ve purchased or that were manufactured for us according to strict, military-grade specifications. To ensure the strictest quality of the gear we deliver and make sure it is suitable for the Russia-Ukraine conflict, each new type of ballistic plates is verified and tested by a ballistics expert supported by members of a Polish Special Forces unit, who conduct shooting tests using various types of ammunition (incl. armour-piercing, unavailable to the civilian market). The tests are performed according to the commonly-accepted Western testing standards created by the U.S. National Institute of Justice (NIJ), with the goal being to ensure results comparable to the NIJ level IV ballistic standard (being the highest level commonly used by Western militaries). The results of these tests are compiled and offered to any recipients of our gear who wish to study them and put their minds at ease, and especially to those who attempt to perform improvised field tests and are unsure about interpreting their results.
2) All of the above gear, as a non-profit, we offer to those in need free of charge. We distribute it according to the list of needs we’ve been gathering from Ukrainians who contact us via various means, with over 8000 such requests received within the first month (out of which we already managed to fulfil over 500). In each case we make sure that the correct, verified recipient gets our gear, as we take care of the logistics ourselves (doing several transports a week from our Warsaw logistics centre to our Lviv warehouse and elsewhere when needed), each time we require a delivery confirmation to be filled out and signed, and whenever possible we ask for a photo of the recipient in our gear (both for verification and promotional purposes). At the same time, as our public fundraiser has largely lost the amazing dynamic it had in the invasion’s initial weeks, to be able to keep our operation going we’ve started asking military units and others who wish to receive larger shipments of gear to make donations which would cover our costs of procuring and/or producing it – otherwise we would not be able to maintain our cashflow. As each request and situation is different, we still often deliver smaller batches of gear unconditionally (e.g. to those we know are currently facing a Russian offensive, don’t have any financial means or were suggested to us by a trusted partner), but with each received request we now ask if the person/s can cover our costs (fully or at least partially), while making clear why we have to request that.
Despite our operating model and the procedures we adhere to being always clearly communicated to our recipients, among the hundreds of people we deal with once in a while we come upon someone who either refuses to understand it (e.g. treating it as a commercial purchase and putting himself in the shoes of a demanding, unsatisfied client), or who simply has bad intentions and wishes to cause our campaign harm (the possible reasons for that we leave to your imagination). To address any such unfortunate situations and put at ease anyone who might have been targeted by such a person, even discouraged to accept aid from us, below we’ve prepared a case study of one such situation, documenting in detail the correspondence with – in our opinion – a uniquely malicious and ill-wishing individual. This person not only ignored our multiple attempts to satisfy all his needs and growing requests (even though we have no such legal obligation), but started his own smear campaign against us and never disclosed what he did with a batch of vests received from us, which in practice means that he cheated us (as well as a military unit in the process) and is now likely trying to shift the blame away from himself. Read and judge for yourself, and if you want to make your own mind about the support we deliver be sure to visit our social media or read any of the multiple press reports on our work (e.g. Onet, Wyborcza.biz, naTemat).
Warsaw, 18 April 2022
Refutation of the statement by Igor Kotelianets and the NGO “Association of Relatives of Kremlin Political Prisoners”
On 18 April 2022, Igor Kotelianets and the NGO he chairs, “Association of Relatives of Kremlin Political Prisoners”, made statements accusing the Open Dialogue Foundation and its President, Lyudmyla Kozlovska, of “selling substandard bulletproof vests” and other “fraudulent activities”. These statements are completely false.
The Foundation is not engaged in the sale of bulletproof vests. We are conducting a charitable fundraising campaign to provide tailored humanitarian aid specifically to meet the needs of Ukrainian defenders, and helping to organise the bulk purchase, logistics, and ballistic tests.
At each stage of communication, Igor Kotelianets as the head of the NGO “Association of Relatives of Kremlin Political Prisoners” was provided with full information about the type of bulletproof vests, their purpose, ballistic tests proving their suitability, as well as information about money transfers.
Separate screenshots of communication with Igor Kotelianets are provided in an annex to this release.
We are ready to provide a full correspondence record with Mr. Kotelianets and cooperate with any investigation.
1. Regarding the type and purpose of the bulletproof vests
Igor Kotelianets received two batches of bulletproof vests from us.
- The first batch of vests utilised Kevlar spall coating and was not intended for use by soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Having received 10 of these bulletproof vests with Kevlar plates, Mr. Kotelianets was informed of all of this. As of 18 April 2022, Igor Kotelianets had not returned these 10 vests with spall coating. During a telephone call he informed that on several occasions these vests were used by firefighters and sappers to protect them from shrapnel.
- The second batch of bulletproof vests provided to Mr. Kotelianets consisted of Hardox 450/500 steel plates (which perform a gunshot protection function) and Kevlar plates (which perform additional spall and ricochet protection functions). We provided Igor Kotelianets with these bulletproof vests after receiving information that his brother was in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
2. Regarding the ballistic test of the bulletproof vests
On 18 March 2022, a representative of Mr. Kotelianets received the bulletproof vests from the second batch (steel plate + kevlar plate). This person, who is without any ballistic expertise that would qualify them to make an informed judgement about the vests’ effectiveness, then informed Mr. Kotelianets that they were “another plastic”. They returned the vests on 20 March 2022.
- However, the steel used in these bulletproof vests has successfully passed several ballistic tests certified by European experts. We once again provided Mr Kotelianets with the steel plate certificate (with the results of the ballistic test), and suggested that Mr. Kotelianets should conduct additional ballistic tests and consult with an Open Dialogue Foundation ballistic expert.
- In his statement, Igor Kotelianets publishes a photo of a Kevlar plate shot through, which really only serves the function of spall and ricochet protection. It is not “armour”, as Mr. Kotelianets points out. At the same time, Mr. Kotelianets does not publish a photo with the results of testing the steel plate, which is not shot through. Through this selective publication, Igor Kotelianets provides incomplete information that misleads the public, possibly trying to give emotional weight to his accusations without regard for the facts.
We receive a lot of feedback from warriors who are already using vests with the steel plates delivered by the Foundation and they have made no complaints about their quality. In fact, these brave fighters have expressed their gratitude for the Foundation’s work. In addition to the steel plates, the Ukrainian fighters are using the ceramic armour plates supplied by the Foundation from Sweden and Israel manufacturers without any complaints.
3. Regarding the refund made to Kotelianets
On 20 March 2022, Mr. Kotelianets requested a refund and provided bank details for the funds to be delivered to. Unfortunately, Mr. Kotelianets initially provided incorrect details for the transfer, causing a delay in the transfer of the funds until today.
On 21 March 2022, Mr. Kotelianets received confirmation that the funds in the amount of EUR 4,500 had been sent to the bank account he had initially provided in the correspondence. The Open Dialogue Foundation cannot be held responsible for the false bank details provided by Mr. Kotelianets on 20 March 2022. Enclosed are several screenshots of correspondence between the Foundation and the bank, confirming that the bank has performed necessary adjustments of the transfer details. Mr. Kotelianets has been regularly informed by the Foundation about the responses from the bank. The full correspondence can be made available on request to journalists, fellow human rights defenders, and investigators.
The above-mentioned facts show that unfortunately on 18 April 2022 Mr. Kotelianets, for reasons unknown to us, used his official position at the NGO “Association of Relatives of Kremlin Political Prisoners” to spread false information about the activities of the Open Dialogue Foundation.
The Open Dialogue Foundation considers the accusations against it and its volunteers about “fraud” and the supply of “plastic” from which “people are dying” to be completely and totally unfounded.
For many years, the Open Dialogue Foundation has protected political hostages of the Kremlin, including Mr. Kotelianets’ brother, as well as inviting and paying for Mr. Kotelianets’ overseas trips to defend his brother and over 100 political prisoners in Ukraine in the international arena. Against the backdrop of years of cooperation and direct affirmation of goodwill on the part of Ms. Kozlovska and the dedicated volunteers of the Open Dialogue Foundation in general, the reaction of Mr. Kotelianets seems excessively emotional and harmful to those who were the beneficiaries of the cooperation of our organisations.
For more information, please contact:
Lyudmyla Kozlovska, President of the Open Dialogue Foundation
We have attached screenshots of correspondence with Igor Kotelianets. We have also attached screenshots of bank documents about the transfer of funds to Mr. Kotelianets and changes to the account for such transfers.
Annex 1: Communication between Igor Kotelianets and Lyudmyla Kozlovska: informing about the type and purpose of bulletproof vests and willingness to replace kevlar vests with bulletproof vests with steel plates.
Annex 2: Certificate for the steel plates inserted in the second batch of bulletproof vests supplied to Kotelianets.
Annex 3: Igor Kotelianets initially gave one account number and then another account number to return the funds to.
On 20 March 2022, Igor Kotelianets sent Lyudmyla Kozlovska the account number UA193348510000026205115608432 to which the funds should be returned. However, on the evening of 20 March 2022, Mr. Kotelianets sent Ms. Kozlovska other details, without commenting that these bank details differed from those previously indicated by Mr. Kotelianets.
Annex 4: Receipt for the money transfer to Igor Kotelianets’ account UA193348510000026205115608432, which he indicated from the beginning.
Annex 5: Since Igor Kotelianets sent Lyudmyla Kozlovska a different account details than those he had originally provided, the Foundation made a request to the bank to change the account for the money transfer. On 23 March 2022, the bank reported that it had sent “a modification of the beneficiary’s IBAN number to a foreign bank for the transfer of EUR 4,500.00”.
Annex 6: Notification from the bank of a change of account for a money transfer, in accordance with the wish of Mr. Kotelianets to have the money transferred to another account. The bank has confirmed that it has sent a notification to the foreign bank of the beneficiary’s account change.