Americans Are Buying Souvenirs Online From Ukraine War

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty Images/eBay
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty Images/eBay
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As demoralized Russian troops sabotage their own weapons systems and flog the parts for scrap, some enterprising Ukrainians, whose regular livelihoods have taken a severe hit since Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion, are making ends meet by selling captured and abandoned Russian gear on eBay.

The trophies include battle-scarred watches and mess kits, uniform hats and cap badges, missile components and tank hatches, good luck charms, boots found near a destroyed Russian column, even sets of long underwear left behind by fleeing (or dead) Russian soldiers.

“This is not just a military artifact—a human life is behind of [sic] each of these things,” one listing for an army belt tells prospective customers.

Another listing reads, “The uniform of a Russian soldier from the war in Ukraine 2022. The lot is unique in that it was taken not in the first days of the war, but roughly speaking these days. Just 3 days ago… this form [sic] was in the hottest place—in the Donbas.”

At $425, the ensemble isn’t cheap. But, as the listing grimly notes: “Good condition, not worn for long:)))”

The seller, who asked that he be identified only by his first name, Taras, told The Daily Beast he owns a small grocery store in Kyiv but that the war has affected his business badly.

“Now, everything is difficult,” Taras said. “eBay helps out and has become the main type of work… Wartime items are of great interest to collectors.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>War souvenirs like these can fetch big bucks on eBay.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Supplied by Taras</div>

War souvenirs like these can fetch big bucks on eBay.

Supplied by Taras

Since Russian troops entered Ukraine in March, the nation’s economy has all but imploded. Some 50 percent of Ukraine’s businesses have shuttered over the past four months, and about half of all Ukrainians have lost their jobs. Only 2 percent of the newly unemployed have been able to find ways to stay afloat, according to economist Nataliya Katser-Buchkovska. If the war continues unabated, up to 90 percent of the Ukrainian population could sink into poverty, the UN’s International Labor Organization warned in May.

Taras just started selling war relics this month, and has moved about 20 items so far. Now that his shop is struggling, Taras said he recently started thinking his profession is “Dude who takes [and sells] crazy things.”

He obtains most of his auction items independently, but also said he takes orders from clients he connects with online.

“Today one of my clients asked me to get and send him a hatch from a damaged tank,” Taras said on Tuesday, adding that he has not yet come across a suitable one. “We have guys from the front line, we buy things from them and thus give support to them.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>A Russian soldier’s boots can be yours for $100 on eBay.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">eBay</div>

A Russian soldier’s boots can be yours for $100 on eBay.


After active hostilities in and around Kyiv died down, Taras said he began taking items left behind by the Russians. In addition to removing hardware and personal effects from enemy equipment, Taras has also purchased “from the population” some of the things he offers for sale online.

His customers are primarily in America, Canada, and Australia, Taras said. “But most of all, America.”

The items vary, based on what he discovers, explained Taras, who often posts a snippet of backstory and a photo of where he found the item along with his listings.

“[O]fficer’s pencil case from a self-propelled artillery mount,” one reads. “product 100% original. Taken from the self-propelled guns (last photo) after a quick counteroffensive in the Chernihiv region. The Russians retreated, leaving the equipment without fuel. There is only one photograph of the person carrying the item, the documents were seized by the military earlier.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>This officer’s pencil case is being sold for $100.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">eBay</div>

This officer’s pencil case is being sold for $100.


“Kyiv region of Brovarsky district!” Taras says in another. “The sleeping bag of an officer of the Russian army was removed from the armored personnel carrier.”

A handful of others have had the same idea, gathering battlefield relics for sale to a fascinated—and largely insulated from the actual day-to-day horrors of war—foreign market.

It’s all permitted for sale under eBay’s military items policy, which excludes weapons, explosives, and certain types of body armor. However, pro-Putin items are now prohibited, as are those with the pro-Putin “Z” symbol, an eBay official told The Daily Beast.

For $123 plus $16 shipping, an eBay vendor who goes by “ukrseller_one” will send you a “Modern Russian Soldier’s military trevel [sic] kit. Inside you can watch what Russian soldiers use in the field. There is a separate soldier’s life inside… As you see some items were used. The torch is worked [sic], it’s fantastic!”

Inside are personal items such as a toothbrush, a sewing kit, gauze, shampoo, and a few pairs of briefs. The seller, who did not respond to The Daily Beast’s inquiries, promises to provide the eventual buyer with “full information, how, where, and when it was captured.”

“P.S. We have this soldier’s photo,” the listing says. “You will be satisfied watching on it [sic].”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>A Russian Army Officer’s Watch, priced at $83 on eBay.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">ukrseller_one</div>

A Russian Army Officer’s Watch, priced at $83 on eBay.


A wristwatch once worn by a Russian soldier can be yours for $83, plus free shipping, via ukrseller_one, whose profile places him (or her) in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

“This watch was captured at the befining [sic] of June near Izum city, Kharkiv region, Ukraine,” reads the listing. “Russian officer’s watch. Broken watch with broken belt, captured after hard battle. Russian oficer’s [sic] name, surname, unit, location is known. All details after purchasing.”

The same eBay seller was, until recently, offering a set of gently used long johns once worn by a member of the Russian forces.

“​​This underwear was found near Pryluki city, Ukraine,” the listing says. “There was [a] night battle and Russian soldiers hadn't time to take on [sic] own underwear. As you see there is one pants and two t-shirts (the second t-shirt is free)”

There were no takers, at an opening bid of $49 or a buy-it-now price of $66, plus $13 shipping.

Further afield, if you’re looking for twisted engine parts from a Russian short-range cruise missile, “prettiestgirlstore,” based in Romanow, Ukraine, is happy to supply them for a starting bid of $125. Shipping is free, and U.S. buyers are provided with a USPS tracking number.

“Turbojet engine parts from a russian Kалибр (NAТО-reportіng name SS-N-27 ‘Sіzzlеr’),” the listing reads. “100% Inert and Safe. Real Battle Relic - June 9, 2022 / Novohrad-Volynskyi city.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>A Russian soldier’s winter hat is on sale for a starting bid of $174.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">eBay</div>

A Russian soldier’s winter hat is on sale for a starting bid of $174.


In another listing, prettiestgirlstore, who also did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, offers up a “Real military trophy!”

“Found in an abandoned tank,” the description reads. “Items of Buryat tankers: Cap Badge, two Branch Insignia Badges, Belt, two Buryat commemorative coins and two buddists protective talismans. Battle of Izium (March 2022) There are a lot of soldiers from Buryatia in the Russian Army.”

The lot, according to the listing, “Smells of diesel fuel and a tank.”

Half of prettiestgirl’s profits are donated to charity, the account claims, stating at the bottom of all listings, “Glory to Ukraine! Victory will be ours! Good will triumph over evil!”

None of it sits particularly well with one Russian national now living in the U.S., who comes from a family with generations of military service. He told The Daily Beast that he finds the idea of buying Russian personal effects “disgusting,” comparing it to dead U.S. soldiers’ gear being sold to curious collectors by the Taliban. (He requested that he not be named for this story.)

Still, business is brisk, and customers continue to submit requests, according to Taras.

“One guy was very offended that he could not get a tank helmet and writes to me every day,” he said. “Now I’m looking for a tank helmet for him.”

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