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A viral Ukrainian appeal to the ultra-rich: ‘Buy me a fighter jet’

Organizers of the campaign say they are looking for fighter jets like the MiG-29 (pictured). (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

A Ukrainian campaign is asking the world’s wealthiest people for help defending the country from invading Russian troops — and it’s doing so with a five-word slogan: “Buy me a fighter jet.”

Those behind the initiative say that governments around the world are “afraid of escalation and the conflict spreading beyond Ukraine” and therefore will not send jets or impose a no-fly zone — both of which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly sought from NATO and the United States since the war began in late February.

In the campaign video, which has been widely shared online, an unidentified man who appears to be a pilot calls on people from all backgrounds — including singers, actors and business owners — to help defenders of Ukraine who cannot compete with the air power of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces.

“We ask you, Philanthropist, to use your financial, organizational and political capabilities to buy and hand over a fighter jet to us,” reads a statement on “One plane can save thousands of innocent lives.”

The campaign website estimates that each jet costs $25 million. On Twitter, those who can’t afford the price tag called on the world’s richest for help buying the aircraft, with many tweeting at billionaires Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for help. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

The Washington Post could not immediately reach organizers behind the campaign Tuesday, but the hashtag is being widely promoted on social media and has been used by the mayor of Lviv, Andriy Sadovyi, and Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister.

However, it is not clear whether any international philanthropists will respond to the latest campaign: a move that Russia would likely view as provocative and could riskensnaring other countries into a broader war with Moscow.

President Biden has warned that enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine could lead to “World War III,” while British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said implementing one would put the lives of British pilots at risk. “NATO would have to effectively declare war on Russia,” he said in response to pleas for the measure from Ukrainian officials.

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Instead, many countries, including Britain and United States, have preferred to support Ukraine by issuing sweeping sanctions on Russia while supplying Kyiv with crucial military aid — including a variety of weapons, equipment and medical supplies.

The Biden administration has provided Ukraine with more than $2.5 billion in aid since Russia launched its invasion Feb. 24. U.S. support has included 25,000 helmets, more than 50 million bullets and 100 Switchblade drones — small unmanned weapons packed with explosives that are designed to hover above targets before striking with precision.

Moscow has warned that any country hosting Ukraine’s military aircraft would be considered a party to the war, and in early March, the United States declined Poland’s offer to send an unspecified number of MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine via an American air base on German soil.

However, experts say attitudes to supplying Ukraine with heavy weaponry appear to have shifted in recent weeks, as evidence of alleged Russian atrocities emerged. Smaller countries have been playing a part in supporting Ukrainian defenders, with Slovakia announcing last week that it was in talks with allies about how it could provide Ukraine with a fleet of Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter aircraft, and Luxembourg offering up jeeps and NLAW antitank weapons.

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Ukrainian officials have been digitally savvy since the war began, launching various crowdfunding and information campaigns using social media and messaging platforms.

Organizers of the latest campaign say potential donors interested in helping to provide warplanes, specifically models such as the Su-25, Su-27, Su-24 and MiG-29, will be offered legal and technical advice.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russia claimed to have seized control of Soledar, a heavily contested salt-mining town in eastern Ukraine where fighting has raged recently, but a Ukrainian military official maintained that the battle was not yet over. The U.S. and Germany are sending tanks to Ukraine.

Russia’s Gamble: The Post examined the road to war in Ukraine, and Western efforts to unite to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, through extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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