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Ukrainian turns wrecked plane into key ring to fund war effort

KYIV, April 30 (Reuters) – It doesn’t matter to forge swords into plowshares; A Ukrainian businessman turns wreckage of a downed Russian fighter jet into souvenir keychains and sells them overseas to aid the war effort.

“A lot of my friends say to me ‘1,000 dollars – nobody will give you that for this piece of metal, it’s crazy,'” said Iurii Vysoven, founder of “Drones for Ukraine”.

“In the morning I woke up and realized on my phone (that) it’s already $20-30k raised, and we see this constant stream of messages from people asking questions and saying (that) they want to give more, they tell us it’s an amazing idea.”

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The plane is a Russian Su-34 two-seat tactical fighter-bomber that the Ukrainian military says it shot down over the town of Borodianka, northwest of kyiv, in early March as Russian forces tried to capture and to hold the area.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense published pictures of the wreckage, which she said had tail number RF-81251 and call sign “31 Red”.

After the Russians withdrew and refocused their invasion on eastern Ukraine, Vysoven asked defenders in the area if he could have some of the wreckage, scattered across farmland.

The soldiers told him that the two pilots of the plane had been killed. Among the wreckage shown by the ministry were a helmet stenciled in Russian with the last three letters of a surname ending in “-NOV”, and an empty leather case marked “Buryat” – the surname of an ethnic group that lives in Siberia.

Russia does not confirm details of its military losses and Reuters was unable to verify the circumstances in which the plane fell.

Vysoven, who works in advertising, has oblong pieces about 10cm (4 inches) long stamped from fuselage fragments, then machined, polished and printed with aircraft information and a “thank you” to the buyer. Each is perforated to receive a key ring, and engraved with a unique serial number.

“The special thing about this keychain is that we made it from the wreckage of a real Russian plane,” he said. “This is a truly unique gift for those who have helped us.”

In his office, Vysoven has an example of the infrared thermal imaging drones he buys for the Ukrainian military with the proceeds from the key fobs.

“Now that we’ve raised a lot more money, we feel a lot more responsible,” he said. “My dream is this fund – we wouldn’t need it anymore. My dream is to win, everyone safe,” he added in English.

“Everyone is going home safe and sound. And (that) we don’t need to raise money to save someone’s life.”

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Written by Kevin Liffey Editing by Ros Russell

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