“Each one of us is a weapons baron”: How Ukrainian volunteers have been buying up armoured vehicles across the UK

29 APRIL 2023

Charitable foundations are buying armoured vehicles for the front line using donations from Ukrainians.

Bayraktar attack UAVs, a satellite, and a vast number of pick-up trucks and drones were just the first steps taken by Ukrainian volunteers. They set their sights on the UK armoured vehicles market last year and launched a campaign to take out everything they could use to fight the Russians.

The UK has been notable for the way it has been auctioning off old armoured personnel carriers (APCs) to anyone who wants them. The armament is dismantled, but the heavy-tracked vehicles are still in demand among locals.

These expensive “toys” are used by businesses or end up in private collections.

The Ukrainian volunteers had a challenging task: specifically, to find working armoured vehicles in the UK, buy them from private owners, and bring them to Ukraine on their own.

Armoured vehicles from an online store

Imagine coming back from the war, logging on to OLX online marketplace, getting a Soviet APC and taking your girlfriend to a club. It sounds totally out of this world, but it is quite possible in the UK.

“We have a nice little FV103 CVRT Spartan for sale. We’ve been driving it around the yard, and it’s a really nice vehicle. It drives well off-road and can be registered to drive on UK roads,” reads an advert on the British website Tanks A Lot.

Nick Mead, a military enthusiast and collector from the UK, regularly drives his sons to school in one of his tanks. His collection is worth £2 million.


Following the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, the UK downsized its army and started selling off armoured vehicles. New armoured personnel carriers have been coming into service, so the old ones are being stripped of their armament and communications equipment and sold at auctions.

According to the Army Technology portal, over 150 tracked armoured vehicles were auctioned in the UK in 2022 alone. Some of them ended up in Ukraine.

In previous years, there were many businesspeople among the buyers who found a civilian use for the military equipment.

A British company offers its customers the chance to drive a Spartan APC for US$280 or to run over an actual car while using it for US$500 – to relieve stress.

Entrepreneurs rent armoured vehicles for birthdays, weddings, funerals, rallies and film shoots.

Military equipment can serve as a hearse


“We saw people using armoured vehicles for a paintball game. You can get together with the boys, take an armoured vehicle and pretend to be at war. It was embarrassing for us because we were looking for equipment for the front, and it was just a toy for them,” says Andrii Potichnyi, Director of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) Unite With Ukraine initiative.

There are professional companies on the market that purchase equipment at auctions, repair it, paint it and export it in large quantities. Ukrainian charitable foundations have worked with such companies.

The Sun reported on British businessman Nick Mead, the owner of Tanks A Lot, which has supplied 100 armoured vehicles, including tanks, to Ukraine.

“It made me laugh to see all those politicians applauding President Zelenskyy in parliament after they agreed to send 14 Challenger tanks,” Mead told reporters. “I’ve sent 100 vehicles to Ukraine over the past year, including tanks with guns.”

UK military equipment collector Nick Mead


All offers of armoured vehicles in the UK were scouted and processed by volunteers, including some representing the Ukrainian diaspora.

As with cars, the equipment came in different conditions and was sold at different prices. Some vehicles were not suitable for combat operations. The foundations had to recruit people to assess the serviceability of each unit on the ground.

The Ukrainian World Congress took officers from Ukraine’s Territorial Defence Forces’ logistics department to the UK to check the condition of armoured vehicles. The Serhii Prytula Foundation got its volunteers to do the same. [Prytula is a Ukrainian public and political figure who, since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, has focused on fundraising for the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine – ed.]

“You can always tell by its visual appearance whether a vehicle has been well maintained or has been out in the fields for 30 years. It’s better to avoid taking equipment used in amusement parks as it has been used a lot,” Potichnyi said.

“The best way to buy armoured vehicles is from collectors or professional suppliers who repair them, change the oil and filters, and understand the conditions where they will be used.”

Number of armoured vehicles purchased by charitable foundations

At least three organisations have purchased used British armoured vehicles, notably the Serhii Prytula Charitable Foundation, the Petro Poroshenko Foundation [the foundation of the former Ukrainian President] and the UWC.

The Serhii Prytula Foundation raised money in November 2022 when Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure were taking place. Ukrainians donated UAH 236 million [roughly US$6,210,000] in just a day and a half. This money was used to buy 101 vehicles.

Poroshenko financed half of the purchase himself and half of it was funded by his foundation. Fourteen vehicles were ordered.

The UWC has purchased and delivered 25 armoured vehicles through fundraising in 70 countries. Another 15 are being prepared for shipment.

Volunteers have purchased a total of 155 armoured vehicles in the UK for Ukrainian defenders. The vehicle most commonly mentioned by the media is the FV103 Spartan, but there are also FV105 Sultans, FV104 Samaritans, FV432 Bulldogs, and Stormers.

The FV103 Spartan is a seven-seater APC suitable for transporting small reconnaissance teams. The FV104 Samaritan is a medical evacuation vehicle capable of carrying six wounded people on a stretcher.

The FV432 Bulldog is a large armoured personnel carrier that can carry up to 12 people. The FV434 is an armoured repair vehicle with a crane for work in the field. The FV105 Sultan is a mobile HQ and armoured personnel carrier with relatively comfortable working space.

The following is a list of some of the types of equipment that Ukrainians have donated to the military.

What types of equipment have Ukrainians raised funds for?

The volunteers quickly bought working armoured vehicles from private owners. According to Potichnyi, it is now more difficult to find them in good condition on the UK market, so the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) is looking at American M113 armoured personnel carriers that can be purchased in the EU.

Unclear prices

Until 2022, prices for armoured vehicles were stable and relatively low — for example, a Spartan cost US$35,000.

There was a surge in the market when Ukrainian volunteers arrived with the money people had donated. Now you can find ads for Spartans being sold for US$79,000.

“As soon as the first purchases of these armoured vehicles for Ukraine became known, sellers realised that they could make money, and prices were no longer low.

Some companies knew about our mega-collection and bought up the equipment we needed. They were convinced that we would come to them,” Uliana Fedoriachenko, the purchasing manager of the Serhii Prytula Foundation, explains to Ekonomichna Pravda.

Volunteer-purchased armoured vehicles are not randomly scattered all over the front, but transferred to brigades in specific areas

According to Potichnyi, prices for armoured vehicles in the UK have increased by 25-35% since summer 2022.

The cost of vehicles bought for Ukrainian foundations has always been different. Sometimes the owners inflate the price tag for better quality or a more modern modification, sometimes for supplying a large quantity of such vehicles or for fast delivery.

The price difference even led to a dispute between the two foundations.

Yurii Biriukov from the Petro Poroshenko Foundation reproached his counterparts from the Serhii Prytula Foundation, claiming they had collected US$100,000 per car when its market value is three times less.

Armoured vehicles purchased by charitable foundations were manufactured in the 1960s and 1970s

Prytula replied that US$100,000 was the maximum price they expected to see on the market. It was set with a margin because wholesale orders are more expensive than small ones.

As a result, the Serhii Prytula Foundation bought 101 armoured vehicles instead of 50.

“Armoured vehicles lose value, just like conventional vehicles. You can buy a 2015 Mercedes G Wagon for US$80,000, or you can buy it for US$5,000. It all depends on the condition, configuration and model. If suddenly there is a huge demand, then prices increase even more. You can’t just compare two Spartans,” Potichnyi believes.

The Petro Poroshenko Foundation spent approximately US$505,000 on the purchase and delivery of 14 vehicles, the Serhii Prytula Foundation paid almost US$6.5 million for 101 vehicles, and the UWC paid US$2.8 million for 40 pieces of equipment.

Delivery to Ukraine

Delivering the equipment to Ukraine is an equally challenging task. Charitable foundations do not have the same logistics capacities as NATO or the Ministry of Defence, so they had to pave their own paths.

The UWC said that they transported the equipment on trucks. Heavy vehicles were mounted on trawls, and small ones, like Spartans, were transported in awnings of two pieces each.

The trucks were taken by ferry to the Netherlands and then driven to Warsaw. There, the armoured vehicles were moved by cranes to the trucks of Ukrainian hauliers, which delivered them to the brigade commanders.

How did volunteers deliver British equipment to Ukraine?

  1. Armoured vehicles are collected in trucks all over the UK.
  2. The trucks are transported by ferry from the UK to the Netherlands.
  3. The lorries travel across Europe to Warsaw.
  4. The armoured vehicles are placed on Ukrainian lorries in Warsaw.
  5. Ukrainian carriers bring the armoured vehicles to Ukraine and hand them over to brigades.


The journey took the volunteers eight to ten days, and the services of each truck cost US$3,000-5,000.

A separate challenge was the bureaucratic red tape, because you need to do more than just take dual-use equipment out of the country and transport it across Europe.

Permission to export it from the UK took up to five weeks to receive. In addition, a transportation licence had to be obtained in each country.

The foundations note that the Ministry of Defence, the General Staff, and Ukrainian and Western regulators have always shown solidarity in all bureaucratic issues.

“We needed a licence to cross the territory of France and Germany. We thought we were stuck with this registration for a week because the Polish licence took quite a long time due to congestion in the relevant ministry,” said Uliana Fedoriachenko of the Serhii Prytula Foundation.

“However, the French and Germans showed some solidarity and helped us draw up the documents correctly.”

People’s Armoured Personnel Carriers at the front

The armoured vehicles purchased by the foundations were produced in the 1960s and 1970s, so they have racked up considerable mileage. However, they are a decent choice for transporting and evacuating people. Anyway, there are not enough armoured vehicles at the front.

“The military use armoured vehicles to perform all sorts of tasks: evacuation of the wounded, offensives, retreats, raids, [actions aimed at the enemy’s] exhaustion, transportation of military personnel, and use of reserves,” military analyst Yigal Levin told Ekonomichna Pravda.

“If the armoured vehicles come to an end, the war will end. Armoured vehicles should flow – hundreds and thousands of vehicles, and you need to take everything they give.”

The equipment is already in action in Ukraine’s east

The volunteer-bought armoured vehicles are not randomly scattered all over the front, but handed over to brigades on specific fronts. This significantly increases their combat capability and saves the lives of Ukrainian defenders.

“Of course, this equipment is not the same quality. Certain things could have been improved. We’ve discussed this with the UK, and now they are sending some spare parts.

Our guys know how to repair this equipment, and when problems arise, they have direct contact with the seller’s representatives, engineers and mechanics.

The equipment is already in use in the east of Ukraine. It’s saving soldiers’ lives and health. You can get many more tasks done on it, and the guys are happy,” Oleksandr Muzyka, an officer of the Territorial Defence Forces Command, which received armoured vehicles from the UWC, told Ekonomichna Pravda.

Russian propagandists shared a video of a damaged Spartan near the war-torn city of Bakhmut. The UWC reported that it was theirs.

“The vehicle came under artillery fire. It burned out, but the crew survived. This equipment is expensive and difficult to import, but it has saved the lives of several defenders. That’s the main result of our work,” Potichnyi said.

Translation: Artem Yakymyshyn and Yulia Kravchenko 

Editing: Ivan Zhezhera and Teresa Pearce


  1. Wonderful!

    The sad part is that we have gobs and gobs of military vehicles of all sorts just sitting around in various depots, and all they’re doing is, well, collect dust and rust and costing us money in the process. Maybe one of our Biden fanboys can explain why, when they are so badly needed in Ukraine.

  2. The same Democrats who wanted to impeach Donald Trump over Ukraine, now should turn red in their faces. Sure, Trump is still ten times worse, but now that they are in charge they already proved this was never about Ukraine – but politics. Where are all the fiery Democrats who wanted to arm to the teeth? Crickets…

    • It wasn’t about Ukraine or politics – it was about Trump’s criminal behavior. Trump was trying to bribe/extort Ukraine into digging up dirt on his political opponent. It wouldn’t matter who the attempted extortion was targeted against was – it’s a crime whether it was an ally or an enemy.

      “I would like you to do us a favor though”

      • True. Still, now the Dems finally have the chance to provide Ukraine with all she needs, yet the handbrake has not been released yet.

        • “the Dems finally have the chance”

          How so? The Republicans hold the majority in the House. And the far-right crazies who are holding Kevin McCarthy’s balls are opposed to more funding for Ukraine. President Biden can only spend what Congress has already approved.

        • I hope that there is “only” stupidity involved in slow-walking military aid to Ukraine and not some sort of purposeful, macabre strategy.

      • You should turn over all your evidence to Robert Meuller, he spent $25 million and 2 years and came up with nothing. I guess the Democrats should have called you instead. 😉

        • Actually, they found ample evidence that Trump was guilty of obstruction of justice. However, Department of Justice policy prevents a sitting president from being charged with a federal crime. Mueller said, “Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”

          Mueller also said that “the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.” – that’s impeachment.

          But you seem to be mixing up the Mueller investigation with why Trump was impeached the first time. That impeachment was because Trump had frozen $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, and then on an infamous call with President Zelenskyy, Trump wanted Zelenskyy to make up stories about Biden in order to hurt his chances in the election.

      • Political favors are against the law? I guess Biden is REALLY in trouble then because he took money under the table from China and Russia. Impeach! Impeach! lol…

        • “he took money under the table from China and Russia. Impeach!”

          Absolutely – if there’s evidence that he did anything wrong, impeach him.

          But it appears that those with “Biden Derangement Syndrome” like to throw around wild accusations, but never have any evidence to back it up.

          If you have evidence, you should turn it over to Kevin McCarthy. LOL..

    • Thanks for the info, Larry! I hope the plant isn’t important for the war effort.

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