A UK initiative led by two Cambridge MBA students and Professor Mark de Rond of Cambridge Judge Business School is providing Ukrainian civilians with lightweight and relatively safe drones to document war crimes.
The UK arm of Eyes on Ukraine is now fundraising for an initial 10 drones, and is seeking donations through its website. The initiative is led by Cambridge MBA students Ihor Kravets, who is from Ukraine, and Olivia Wenig of the US (both MBA 2021). Ihor is the current ROMBA LGBTQ+ scholarship recipient.
“Eyes on Ukraine is striving to get as many drones as possible in the air over the places in Ukraine where fighting is going on, so the truth will not perish in this war,” says its website. “If people can document the war with drones, they are able to share what is happening. As a result, it will become much more difficult to deny attacks on civilian targets or the use of forbidden bombs.”
The Dutch-based group has already delivered hundreds of lightweight drones the size of a blackbird, and is now also raising donations for drones that can fly higher and thus have a better zoom range and be less sensitive to electronic disturbance.
Documenting atrocities in a timely and safe manner
“There has been no other military conflict that had been so well documented as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where footage from personal devices provides practically live updates of events as they unfold,” says Ihor Kravets, who hails from the Ukrainian city of Lviv.
“At the same time, the atrocities committed by the Russian army on Ukrainian soil continue daily and have become systematic. Millions of Ukrainians are affected by what had been done to their homes, their families, their lives.
“While most of the initiatives in support of Ukraine focus on humanitarian or military aid, Eyes on Ukraine puts focus on another critical aspect of this unjust invasion – ensuring that there is enough evidence of Russian war crimes to help keep accountable those who committed them.
“Documenting these crimes in a timely and safe manner for the operators requires more specific equipment, particularly the light drones. ‘Eyes on Ukraine’ is fundraising to support the effort of having as many of such drones as possible in the hands of Ukrainians.”
Evidence needed to hold perpetrators to account
Says Mark de Rond, Professor of Organisational Ethnography at Cambridge Judge, whose research has included six weeks embedded with military surgeons during the war in Afghanistan:
“War can showcase acts of exceptional courage and generosity but also expose the depths of human depravity. There will come a time when perpetrators are held to account.
“For that, we need evidence, and to get evidence we need drones – lightweight drones – that allow Ukrainians to document war from a distance but are not powerful enough to also transport explosives.
“We work to get as many drones as possible in the hands of Ukranians so they can share what is happening on the ground and making it harder to deny attacks on civilian targets or the use of cluster bombs.”