Speaker 1: Cryptocurrency is a lot of things to a lot of people, but to the people of Ukraine, it's been a lifeline with me to discuss this is Alex Nikko, the nation's deputy minister of digital transformation. Who's zooming in from an undisclosed location in Ukraine. Well, Alex, thanks for joining me. It's been more than three weeks since Russia has invaded and we've all seen the horrific attacks. So before we get into the questions, how are you doing?
Speaker 2: Uh, well, so far so good. There was, uh, a lot, [00:00:30] a lot of pressure in the first days. It is been hectic and, uh, I was caught, uh, well actually I was in cave when it's all started and I woke up from, um, explosions, uh, sounds and 6:00 AM. Um, and, uh, during next two days, uh, there was instantly sirens bombing shelling. So we had to go to shelter. Then we moved to a safe location [00:01:00] to be able to work and continue operations of the ministry of digital transformation. So right now I'm still in Ukraine, but, uh, a little bit far from, uh, actual war zone. So, but even here, there are sometimes siren and so, uh, we have to go and, uh, and height, um, but it's safe. It's it's good.
Speaker 1: Well, that's, that's, that's good to hear. And I, I wanna talk a little more about sort of the department you work in this, you're [00:01:30] the deputy minister of digital transformation and it's an, it's an interesting title. It's not a title that you, you hear a lot. Um, and so I'm curious if you could talk a little bit about that role and how that role has, or hasn't changed during this invasion.
Speaker 2: Uh, basically, um, a ministry of digital transformation is something new in Ukraine. It was created two years ago, uh, to move, uh, government services like online completely and to make, [00:02:00] um, government services transparent, uh, easy to, to use convenient for people. And, um, uh, having this goal, we, uh, it was actually major goal. We also set a couple other goals. Um, uh, one of them is to cover Ukraine with high speed broadband internet, uh, also teach people digital skills and create digital literacy. Um, and what I was personally in charge of is to develop it industry of Ukraine, boost, startup ecosystem, [00:02:30] venture investments, to, to create favorable conditions for it companies, uh, which want to incorporate in Ukraine. Um, so we came up with their DS C D, which is legal framework for it companies with low taxes. Uh, it's a sort of a Silicon valley in Ukraine.
Speaker 2: Uh, we also was working on crypto, uh, laws, legislative legislation of the crypto in Ukraine. Um, but when, [00:03:00] when, uh, Russia attacked us, um, we completely switched to another focus. So now we are mostly defending our digital infrastructure. We, um, still trying to support like telecommunication infrastructure, um, running and so far, are we doing good? So most of their creative is still covered with their satellite. I'm sorry, cell reception with internet. Um, and of right now, we also work in field [00:03:30] of digital diplomacy. So we work with international companies telling them what's going on. Uh, we, um, uh, uh, urge them and appeal to them to leave Russia, to stop operations in Russia. Um, yeah, we also work on this it army of Ukraine to fight against invasion and Russia attack.
Speaker 1: Right. Right. And, you know, as you said, one of the ones is, is advocating for tech companies to do more in terms of, you know, what what's happening in Russia. And [00:04:00] we've seen companies like apple Holdt sales and, and like YouTube really kinda block out a lot of the Russian state run media and a lot of the propaganda coming out of it. I'm curious though, has the tech industry done enough?
Speaker 2: Well, we think that, um, they responded to most of our, uh, requests, which we, we really appreciate and we thankful for, uh, international community and United States support, um, uh, Instagram, Facebook, Google, [00:04:30] YouTube, uh, Twitter. They did a lot of, uh, uh, impactful things in terms of fighting with propaganda, uh, because Russia used what was actually using those platforms to, as a means of war. There was no media from they using, they were using media as a means of war, like a weapon. Uh, so with the help of those, uh, tech giants, uh, and media platforms, uh, we think [00:05:00] that we do number of those propaganda specialists going to Ukraine. Um, but they, at some point they realized that they losing and they just banning all this platform in Russia. I'm sure you know, that what they're doing again at this point,
Speaker 1: And now a lot of folks, uh, who wanna support Ukraine have, have done so through crypto. Uh, and indeed this has been called the first crypto award, just because of the funds that have been accumulated really on both sides. I I'm curious, uh, if you could talk a little bit about that, [00:05:30] cuz you talked about some of the work you had already done in crypto. And, and tell me just sort of how you Ukraine is taking advantage of this trend.
Speaker 2: I think there was there not about advantages was about necessity and urgency because, uh, during the first day war, since they attacked us from many angles, from many sides, um, even they were very close to our capital Kiev national bank have created limited a lot of, uh, Fiat occurrences, uh, movement, uh, in Ukraine and [00:06:00] especially out of Ukraine. So we had to, uh, urgently, uh, make, make a step in order in order to, uh, somehow figure out how we can help army help our people. And crypto was, uh, one of the solutions because, uh, there was no, there are no restrictions and you can do this very fast and crypto transaction. They like in, if you send a wire transfer, you wait for one, at least one, two days, [00:06:30] uh, for it's to, uh, uh, reach the destination. But with crypto is just 10, 15 minutes.
Speaker 2: And, um, also there, uh, people of the world had limited ability to fund UK Ukraine, other Ukrainian funds in theat currencies. So called me on the second, on the third day and told me that let's create this fund because there many people wanted, want to help. We immediately responded, created this fund published on the Twitter and then [00:07:00] like thousands of people starting to donate. And, um, this, this was, this is really, this is really great and we so much appreciate the support. And, and recently we published a report that we bought like, uh, thousands of, uh, bullet requests, uh, how it's, uh, night vision, Goggle optics, uh, food rations, uh, um, medical supplies and, and much, much more to, to help army and the people to, [00:07:30] to define our Homeland.
Speaker 1: Uh, you're you're also planning to sell NFTs as a way to raise funds. I just, I'm curious how that works, especially for folks who really can't get their minds wrapped around NFTs in general. Um, how does that, how does that work?
Speaker 2: Um, yeah, some people been donated NFTs, but we, uh, we haven't gone into details. Uh, uh, I know there's one of the pieces that very valuable, like $200,000. Um, and, uh, at some point we, we go to a market [00:08:00] to sell it, but, uh, we still have funds in our major fund, uh, in Bitcoin and I, and, uh, te so, uh, at, uh, at this moment we think that, uh, uh, we focus our sales fund on urgent and immediate needs of our main, and we, we're gonna turn to NFT. Um, also we think about, uh, running, um, government, uh, initiative about [00:08:30] creating NFT and it's gonna be like sort of a museum of war, um, NFT collection. So, um, I can give you an idea how, if you, if you, if you want, how, how we see the concept of this, uh, initiative. So the concept basically is to, um, create our, um, get the trust of new source and, and piece of heart associated with this news and, and take, um, [00:09:00] and, and put them in a chronological order.
Speaker 2: So we can have this, uh, um, sequence from day zero to till the end of word. So each day something happened and, uh, uh, for each day there'll be NFT re uh, connected to this day to some news about this day and to, uh, piece of heart related to this day, um, Russians bone, uh, child hospital, maternity [00:09:30] word in, in ma. So we are gonna get, uh, this news to the piece of part, like a picture of, uh, something, or maybe you'll have some video then put this to NFG, and this will be part of this museum. So we never forget what happened. Yeah.
Speaker 1: So on the flip side, uh, you know, there's concern that Russian leaders in the oligarchy are using cryptocurrency to, you know, act as a safe Haven. Uh, I'm curious what, you know, you've said and, and sort [00:10:00] of the outreach you've made to crypto exchanges about this.
Speaker 2: Some exchanges reported that they've been, uh, um, Russian customers, completely. Some of them limited their, uh, functionality, Bann some currencies. Uh, but when I know for sure that in, in this, in the Binance statement and also, uh, Coinbase, uh, did this, they block, uh, people who were on the distentions and people related to them. So they, right, like [00:10:30] Coinbase Bann like 25,000 accounts. Uh, I know bin been a lot of, so they trying to be compliant with the sanctions anyway. Yeah. Um, but what's, what's go, what's going on, on, uh, on like, uh, generally on the market. I, I, I, what I heard here that they started to actively using crypto to have white sanctions, uh, uh, for the last few days. Um, I know there, there are, there should be some [00:11:00] response from us government and other a authorities about that. Uh, but I didn't know the details details.
Speaker 1: So just switching gears a bit, just something you referred to earlier this, uh, the it army of Ukraine. Um, tell me, tell me a little bit about this, uh, because it, it, it seems like you've got this up of fighters on a digital front, uh, and that's, that's sort of a new angle to, or new perspective on, on how these kind of conflicts are, are being fought nowadays.
Speaker 2: Sure, sure. So during [00:11:30] the first day were, um, of course this was, um, we've got, uh, immediately thousands of requests. We got onboarded with requests from, from, um, our, it engineers with people from tech industry. And by the way, we have a very powerful it industry. A lot of Ukrainian engineers are, um, working on five, uh, 500 fortune companies. And, and there was like thousands hundred [00:12:00] thousands of them in Ukraine. So they started like asking questions about what we can do to help, uh, to fight this aggression. And at some point we realized that we not, we have let survive talking to every, uh, person. So we decided to channel this energy into our big can and give them, uh, tasks that we, uh, think that is priority at this point. Um, [00:12:30] so we created a channel in telegram and said like, listen, we gonna publish, uh, some the information about what we need, what we require, so you can see their, their information and, and act. And, and this turned out very popular, like 300,000 people joined this initiating. Oh, wow. Yeah. Wow. It's amazing.
Speaker 1: And in terms of what, what they've done, like, are there examples of some of the, the tasks that have been, you know, taken on [00:13:00] by, by this it army?
Speaker 2: Yeah. Um, well, they've taken down, uh, their government services, uh, Russian government, so their stock exchange, they get down their fees side Kremlin, uh, and so more, and they, they disrupted their, um, uh, their bank infrastructure and, and, and there a lot of harm to digital Russian digital infrastructure.
Speaker 1: Interesting. So it's, it's based almost like a task list that you put in telegram. Like, [00:13:30] we, we want to shut down the exchange and then folks will, will volunteer to take on that. And that's still going on now. That's still, still pretty active.
Speaker 2: Yeah, of course.
Speaker 1: Uh, you, you talked about sort of, one of the core missions right now is, is keeping, you know, broadband service, self service around, uh, which, which, um, really astounds me or seeing the bombard and seeing the attacks going on. Like, I don't don't know if you can sort of run through like, how, what it's like to try to keep this infrastructure [00:14:00] working, cuz it really is a lifeline right now.
Speaker 2: So in, in their head they supposed to just, uh, roll over to KV from everywhere and just announce that they win. So they didn't attack any, um, communication, uh, uh, communication, um, channels or, um, physical telecommunication. So they, because they didn't think that it's going, uh, [00:14:30] the government is so much resistance. So, um, um, at the, the first week it was, everything was working fine. Yeah. There, there were some outages and, and of course in war zone, there was no connection because they were jamming, but in, in the most of country, uh, we still had, uh, good reception and, and, and, and internet is working fine. Um, right now, of course they, uh, once they approach the big city, they're trying to cut this, uh, yes. And people, people, [00:15:00] um, instantly repairing it. So with the big cities that they surrounded, uh, at least two cities like Harin, Mar it's, sometimes it's like in with Maru, there's no connection at all.
Speaker 2: Uh, with their heart give there is still connection. So I see my friends tweets, uh, Facebook posts, we can call each other. So, um, there's, there is still a connection for cities like Maru, or it's really hard. They just bumping it instantly and it's, [00:15:30] they enable to fix it. So it's just a problem of, uh, getting to their line and, and fix it because it's, it's been cut by from explosion. Um, and, uh, but also, uh, with the help of, uh, Michael father, he contacted like star, uh, Ellen Musk. I Musk in, uh, he provided, uh, some, uh, he enabled Starling functionality in Ukraine, provided hundreds of, uh, Starling terminals. And they right now we're distributing [00:16:00] throughout Ukraine. So, um, also we want to have all this cities and places where they go, uh, to have independent, not wired connect, uh, straight to your, uh, satellite. And so, so we can be still in touch.
Speaker 1: Uh, well, Alex, thank you for your time. Uh, stay safe. This is Alex Bo deputy minister in charge of digital transformation for Ukraine.