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Mykhailo Fedorov Is Running Ukraine’s War Against Russia Like a Startup

For thousands of Ukrainians, Mark Hamill is the voice of the air raids. The first notice of an incoming attack is an ear-splitting whoop-whoop coming out of cell phone speakers, followed by the voice of the Star Wars actor in full Jedi Knight tones. “Air raid alert. Proceed to the nearest shelter,” he says. “Don’t be careless. Your overconfidence is your weakness.” In mid-May, following a few months of quiet in the skies over Kyiv, Russia restarted its almost nightly bombardments of cruise missiles and kamikaze drones. After a week of alerts, the novelty of “May the Force be with you” sounding asynchronously from a dozen phones in the air raid shelter wore off, and it was hard not to start blaming Hamill personally for the attacks.

The air alert app was developed by a home security company, Ajax Systems, on the second day of the war, in a process that epitomizes the scrappiness, flexibility, and back-of-the-envelope creativity that have allowed Ukraine to, at times, run its war effort like a startup, under the guidance of its 32-year-old vice prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov.

On February 25, 2022, as fighter jets dueled low over Kyiv, Ajax’s chief marketing officer, Valentine Hrytsenko, was driving west out of the capital, helping to oversee the evacuation of the company’s manufacturing facilities, when his phone rang. It was the CEO of an IT outsourcing company, who wanted to know if Ajax had any experience with Apple’s critical alert function, which allows governments or emergency services to send alerts to users. The municipal air raid sirens were, in Hrytsenko’s words, “very old-style pieces of shit,” built during the Soviet Union, and often couldn’t be heard. People were already cobbling together their own mutual alert systems using Telegram, but these depended on volunteers finding out when raids were incoming and posting to public groups, making them unreliable and insecure.

From his car, Hrytsenko called Valeriya Ionan, the deputy minister of digital transformation, whom he knew from years working with the ministry on tech sector projects. She, in turn, connected him to several local “digital transformation officers”—government officials installed by Fedorov’s ministry in each region of Ukraine, with a brief to find tech solutions to bureaucratic problems. Together, they figured out how the air raid system actually worked: An official in a bunker would get a call from the military, and they would press a button to fire up the sirens. Ajax’s engineers built them another button, and an app. Within a week, the beta version was live. By March, the whole country was covered. “I think this would be impossible in other countries,” Hrytsenko says. “Just imagine, on the second day of the war, I message the deputy minister. We’re talking for five minutes and they give us the green light.”

When he came into government five years ago, Fedorov promised his newly formed Ministry of Digital Transformation would create “tangible products that change the lives of people,” by making the government entrepreneurial and responsive to the needs of the population. The process is working exactly as Fedorov envisioned. The products aren't quite what he had in mind.

Fedorov is tall and broad with wide schoolboyish features and close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair. Almost always seen dressed in a hoodie and jeans, he looks like a movie star unsuccessfully geeking up for a role. When we meet, he’s just come offstage after headlining a press conference to launch a new digital education initiative. In keeping with the government’s carefully curated image, it’s a slick affair, with strip lights and hi-def screens, celebrity cameos, and a Google executive giving a speech via video call. It’s held in a five-star hotel near the Dnipro riverside but, as a concession to the ever-present threat of airstrikes, it’s taking place in the underground parking lot. The gloom and the neon and the youthful crowd in sneakers and branded sportswear gives the whole thing a kind of subversive glamor.

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It’s not a packed room, but Fedorov is the main draw. Since the invasion began, he’s been one of the Ukrainian government’s most visible figures at home and abroad, more so even than the minister of defense, and second only to President Zelenksyy. Which makes sense. This has been a war fought in parallel in cyberspace, with information operations from all parties, diplomacy done at small scale on platforms, and relentless news flow, stories of hope and horror leveraged—and exploited—for gain on both sides. It’s one where, oddly for an active conflict, digital marketing, social media campaigning, crowdfunding, and bootstrapping have been vital skills. That is Fedorov’s world.

Within days of the invasion, the ministry had launched an appeal for donations: Fedorov tweeted out the government’s crypto wallet addresses, raising millions of dollars by the end of the first week. By May, the ministry had turned this into United24, a one-click ecommerce-style platform where anyone with a credit card, Paypal account, or crypto wallet could contribute to the war effort. Superficially simple, it was a radical move for any government—let alone a government at war—to open up its state finances and military supply chain to donations from the public. “But the world hasn’t seen such a huge, full-scale invasion, broadcast live, 24-7,” Fedorov says, speaking through an interpreter. “If we’d waited for people to donate through the organizations that already exist, they’d have got to Ukraine’s needs very slowly, or not at all.”

Since the start of the war, United24 has raised a reported $350 million to buy drones, rebuild homes, and fund demining operations. It has attracted celebrity endorsements from Hamill to Barbra Streisand to Imagine Dragons, helping to keep the conflict in the public consciousness around the world by giving ordinary people an opportunity to feel like they’re participating in Ukraine’s struggle for survival—something Fedorov says is more important than the money. “The same way the president talks to people abroad by broadcasts or on stage, this is the same way United24 speaks to regular people,” he says. “The main point of United24 is not fundraising itself, but keeping people around the world aware of what is going on in Ukraine.”

The initiative, and the projects that have spun out of it over the first 500 days of the war, have also been a vindication of Fedorov and Zelensky’s peacetime vision for the Ukrainian state. Since taking power in 2019, their administration has been trying to rewire the country’s bureaucracy, running parts of the government like a startup, communicating with and delivering services to citizens directly through their smartphones. They have nurtured their relationships with the local and global technology sectors, presenting themselves as an open, transparent and tech-forward nation, contiguous with the European Union and the democratic world they want to be part of, and whose support they now depend on.

Nothing could have prepared them for the total war that Russia launched in 2022. But Fedorov has been able to mobilize an extraordinary coalition of volunteers, entrepreneurs, engineers, hackers, and funders who have been able to move fast and build things, to innovate under fire to keep soldiers fighting and civilians safe—to get smarter. To win.

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Until 2019, Fedorov was a little-known figure in Ukraine. His first foray into politics was as student mayor of his hometown of Zaporizhzhia. In 2013, as a 23-year-old, he founded a digital marketing company called SMMStudio, specializing in Facebook and Instagram ads for small businesses. One of its clients was a TV production company, Kvartal 95, founded by a comedian called Volodymyr Zelensky whose biggest hit was a political comedy, Servant of the People—in which a schoolteacher is unexpectedly elected president on the back of a viral video. Zelensky’s political party, also named Servant of the People, was spun out of Kvartal 95 in 2018. Fedorov signed on as an adviser.

In 2019, Servant of the People ran an extraordinary insurgent campaign for the presidency. The Ukrainian electorate was desperate for change, four years into a slow-burning war with Russian proxies in the Donbass region in the east, and exhausted with the crony politics of the post-Soviet era. Zelensky’s pitch was a new kind of politics: consensual, based on listening to the people and taking advice from experts, and decoupled from the oligopolies that corrupted administrations and slowed economic and social progress. Challenging those vested interests meant cutting the party off from the oligarchs’ financial resources, so they had to fight smart.

Fedorov ran the campaign’s digital strategy. He used Facebook, Instagram, and Telegram to sidestep the mainstream media and talk directly to a young, very online population. On Facebook, Zelensky crowdsourced policy ideas and asked for nominations for his cabinet. While TV was still a more important medium for the electorate at large, Zelensky’s campaign was at times able to dictate the news agenda online, driving viral stories that then made their way onto mainstream channels. They micro-targeted demographics that could be mobilized to vote on individual issues, with categories from “lawyers” to “mothers on maternity leave” to “men under 35 who drive for Uber.” With a full-time team of just eight people, Fedorov’s unit used social media to mobilize hundreds of thousands of volunteers, coordinated through a hub on Telegram.

Zelensky won the election in the second round against the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko, with nearly 75 percent of the vote. At 28 years old, Fedorov was appointed to head the newly formed Ministry of Digital Transformation, with the brief of digitizing the Ukrainian state. The new government had inherited a Soviet-era bureaucracy that had been hijacked by oligarchs, manipulated by Russia, and was corrupt at many levels. In 2019 the country ranked 126th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, a common benchmark. By bringing services and government processes online, the administration hoped they could create a more transparent state, where corruption couldn’t fester in dark corners. “A computer has no friends or godfathers, and doesn’t take bribes,” Zelensky said at a Ministry of Digital Transformation summit in 2021.

The ministry’s flagship project was Diia, a “state in a smartphone” app, launched to the public in 2020. The system stored users’ official documents, including driver’s licenses and vehicle registration documents, and let them access online a growing list of government services, from tax filings to the issuance of marriage certificates. Ukraine became one of the first countries worldwide to give digital ID documents the same status as physical ones. Initially met with skepticism by a public used to governments overpromising and underdelivering, it’s now been downloaded onto 19 million smartphones and offers around 120 different government services.

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“We wanted to build something that Ukrainians abroad would brag about when they went overseas,” Fedorov says, knowing full well that they already do. In its early days, Ukraine’s plans to digitize the state were often compared to Estonia, the small Baltic state that has become synonymous with e-government. This year, Ukraine is exporting Diia to Estonia, which is white-labeling the service for its own citizens.

Diia wasn’t just about building a practical tool, it was a way to change the perception of the Ukrainian government at home and abroad. Under Fedorov, the ministry was very visibly run like a startup. Its minister dresses and speaks like a tech founder, and the ministry has cultivated an air of accessibility and openness to experimentation. It has positioned itself at the center of the country’s booming tech sector, facilitating, investing, and supporting. In 2020, it launched a new “virtual free zone,” Diia City, offering tax breaks and other incentives for tech companies. The ministry has been a cheerleader internationally, with Fedorov himself conducting state-to-company diplomacy to build links between the government and Big Tech. A few months before the full-scale invasion, in late 2021, Fedorov was in Silicon Valley, pitching Ukraine to the US tech sector. On Facebook, he shared a picture from his meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook, posting effusive praise for the “most efficient manager in the world.”

In peacetime, it’s easy to look at these initiatives with a cynical eye as the branding exercises of a country competing for a slice of the global tech dollar. Eastern Europe and Central Asia are densely populated with former Soviet states trying to reorient their economies toward services; what country doesn’t have a putative tech hub? But when the full-scale war finally began, this groundwork meant that Ukraine had a leadership with enormous experience of running asymmetrical digital campaigning; it had immediate access to a network of innovative and highly motivated engineers and tech entrepreneurs; and it had direct lines into a number of powerful global companies.

The war didn’t come as a surprise. Intelligence agencies had been warning for months that the huge buildup of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders wasn’t a bluff. Fedorov’s ministry had been on a war footing since November 2021, working to harden national infrastructure against cyberattacks.

When the invasion began, the ministry went on the offensive, mobilizing the local tech community and using a weaponized version of its 2019 electoral playbook. Fedorov promoted a Telegram channel, the “IT Army of Ukraine,” which gathered volunteers from across the country and all over the world to hack Russian targets. Admins post targets on the channel—Russian banks, ministries, and public infrastructure—and the digital militias go after them. The channel now has more than 180,000 subscribers, who have claimed responsibility for hacks of the Moscow Stock Exchange and media outlets TASS and Kommersant. They got into radio stations in Moscow and broadcast air raid alerts, shut down the ticketing systems of Russian railway networks, and took the country’s product authentication system offline, causing chaos in its commercial supply chains.

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At the same time, Fedorov, the ministry, and members of the tech community were pulling strings in Silicon Valley, mobilizing support for a “digital blockade” of Russia. On February 25, Fedorov wrote to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos asking them to block access to their services in Russia. He asked Meta to shut down Facebook and Instagram for Russian users. He reconnected with Tim Cook at Apple, asking the company to stop selling products and services to Russia. “We need your support—in 2022, modern technology is perhaps the best answer to the tanks, multiple rocket launchers … and missiles,” the letter read.

The ministry had friends in America who helped spread the word, like Denys Gurak, a Ukrainian venture capitalist based in Connecticut. “I knew lobbyists, and I knew journalists, so I started picking up the phone and calling just everybody, asking, ‘Who can you connect me with?’ So we could start shaming Big Tech that they’re not doing anything,” Gurak says. Some of the Ukrainian demands were wildly improbable—there was a campaign to get Russia disconnected from GPS. “In the minds of Ukrainians, that totally made sense,” Gurak says. “If you ask any Ukrainian back then what had to be done in tech, they would say, ‘Just fuck them all,’ [cut them off] from GPS from the internet, from Swift.”

Gurak and others didn’t just target CEOs of tech companies, but employees at those companies too, urging them to pressure their bosses to act. When Zelensky and Fedorov wrote to executives, including Meta’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, and COO Sheryl Sandberg, asking them for assistance, Gurak helped make sure the emails “leaked” to The Ink, a newsletter read by tens of thousands of tech workers.

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It’s hard to say whether these interventions directly resulted in what the companies did next. Netflix was already under pressure from new laws in Russia that would have restricted the content of its shows and compelled it to broadcast propaganda. Meta had been publicly dismantling Russian disinformation operations on Instagram and Facebook for years, leading to intense criticism from the Kremlin. Apple’s exports to Russia were inevitably going to be hit by looming sanctions. But nevertheless, they acted. Netflix, which had roughly a million customers in Russia, suspended its service there in March, closing it fully in May. YouTube blocked access to Russian state-affiliated channels worldwide. Apple halted all sales in Russia. Amazon gave Ukraine access to secure cloud storage to keep its government functioning, reduced fees for Ukrainian businesses selling on its platforms, and donated millions of dollars' worth of humanitarian and educational supplies. Facebook blocked some Russian state media from using its platforms in Europe, and changed a policy that blocked users if they called for the deaths of Russian and Belarusian presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko. In response, Russia banned both platforms for “Russophobia” in March. In October, Russia declared Meta an “extremist organization.”

These are tech companies that have often studiously avoided taking overt political stances, at times dancing on a razor’s edge between neutrality and complicity in autocratic countries. Taking sides in a war between two sovereign nations feels more profound than simple commercial calculation. At the launch event in Kyiv where I met Fedorov, a Google executive gave a gushing presentation on videoconference, in front of a yellow wall that echoed the Ukrainian flag. A couple of months earlier, I saw Fedorov give a video address to a Google for Startups event in Warsaw. Wearing military green, he described the tech sector as an “economic front line” in the war with Russia. The support in the room was unambiguous. “When the invasion began, we had personal connections to these companies,” Fedorov says. “They knew who we are, what we look like, what our values are and our mission is.”

Of all Fedorov’s callouts to the tech world, the most tactically significant was probably his February 26 tweet to Elon Musk: “While you try to colonize Mars—Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space—Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations,” Fedorov wrote. “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route,” Musk shot back.

It could be argued that this was a fantastic marketing opportunity for Musk’s company—Starlink being a solution in search of a problem—but the devices have at times proved decisive. The satellite broadband service has been used by frontline troops to communicate with one another when other networks go down, and to fly drones for surveillance and artillery targeting. Starlinks have kept government agencies and health care facilities online despite Russia’s routine targeting of power and communications infrastructure. When, in February 2023, Starlink said it was restricting Ukraine’s military use of the system, there was an outcry. (Although true to form in a Musk company, there was apparently little follow-through, and Ukrainian users said they experienced no meaningful disruption to their service.)

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When asked about the early days of the war, what Fedorov reaches for isn’t the big picture, but the details—the small changes to processes that made the state more nimble. They figured out how to securely send training materials to military volunteers. They changed the law on cloud storage for government data to make it harder for the Russians to take out vital systems. They tweaked financial infrastructure to make sure donations from the global public went straight into transparent national accounting systems. United24, a platform where you can donate bitcoin to buy drones to kill Russian soldiers, has a banner saying it’s audited by Deloitte, one of the Big Four global accounting firms.

These things must have felt small and needlessly bureaucratic during the opening days of an existential conflict, in which government business was being conducted from bunkers and leading political figures were reportedly being targeted for assassination by the Russians. But they mattered, Fedorov says, because the administration couldn’t afford to be anything less than performatively incorruptible. “It was a test [set] by the president,” Fedorov says. “Make all this happen fast, but also keep the bureaucracy in place.”

Fedorov’s ministry was able to use that solid base of bureaucracy to bypass the military’s slow procurement processes, taking in money and buying drones and other high-tech gear from whoever could get it into the field quickly. “United24 shows how many unnecessary chains there were in this decisionmaking, and how it could be streamlined or optimized,” he says. In practice, what that meant was they could buy things that soldiers wanted, but the army’s procedures wouldn’t let them have. “Procedures work like anchors,” says Alexander Stepura, founder and CEO of Skyeton, a Ukrainian drone manufacturer. “The guys on the front line, they don't think about procedures.”

In a farmer’s field an hour’s drive outside of Kyiv, a man in combat fatigues kneels in the dust like a supplicant, one arm raised to the heavens, holding a quadcopter on his outstretched palm. A few meters away, two of his comrades take cover behind a concrete pylon, watched over by an instructor in aviator sunglasses. After a long wait—long enough for the kneeling soldier to have to get up and stretch his legs—the drone’s propellers start to spin. It lifts slowly from his hand, then zips away, heading for a distant tree line.

The team of three—pilot, navigator, and catcher—are learning how to launch their drones (the instructors call them “birds”) and bring them safely home in a low diagonal line that’s hard for the enemy to track. The rule of thumb is you have 30 seconds in the open before someone spots you and the mortar bombs start to fall. “Priority number one is for soldiers to survive,” the instructor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says. The second is to get the drones back intact, since it’s getting harder and harder to get hold of the Chinese-made DJI models that were ubiquitous in the early days of the war.

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These fields, strung with electrical cables and dotted with smallholdings, are where Ukraine’s “Army of Drones” trains. Over the past year, hundreds of Ukrainians have come here to learn to fly unmanned aerial vehicles in defense of their homeland, being taught how to surveil enemy lines, spot targets for artillery, and drop explosives on Russian vehicles. There’s an informality to the operation—at the battery charging station a spaniel belonging to one of the instructors barges between the trainees’ legs—but the trainers have honed their skills in combat, and many of their students go from the school directly back to the lines.

The Ukrainian army’s use of drones in the early days of the war was another master class in tech innovation. Ordinary soldiers collaborated with engineers and programmers working out of living rooms and office spaces to bootstrap a weapons program that helped drive Russia’s armored columns back from the edge of Kyiv, often using drones costing a few hundred dollars apiece to destroy millions of dollars’ worth of high-tech military gear. Since then, the enemy has begun to develop countermeasures, so the Army of Drones has had to adapt and refine its tactics and its gear. “If you want to win, you have to be smarter,” the unit’s lead instructor, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, says. “And the only way to get smarter is to learn.”

Many of Ukraine’s innovations in drone warfare were made in sheds, offices, small industrial premises, and in the trenches themselves. Soldiers jury-rigged drones to carry grenades or mortar bombs; engineers and designers helped refine the systems, 3D-printing harnesses that used, for example, light-activated mechanisms that could be fitted to the underside of DJI Mavic drones, turning the UAV’s auxiliary lights into a trigger. But the country also had a sizable aerospace industry clustered in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Lviv, which naturally pivoted to meet the threat of obliteration. Skyeton was part of it. Founded in 2006 as a maker of light aircraft, it’s been making UAVs for close to a decade, selling long-range surveillance drones to coast guards and police forces in Asia and Africa. One of its drones was put to work in Botswana, protecting the last remaining black rhino from poachers.

Converting its products for military use wasn’t straightforward. They needed to be adapted to fly without GNSS or GPS signals, and to be resistant to electronic warfare. Their software needed to be rewritten to identify military targets. “A lot of engineers in Ukraine are obsessed with fighting the enemy, so you just say ‘We need you guys’ and they come to the company and help,” says Skyeton CEO Stepura. They quickly built a new system that could fly without satellite navigation and took it to the military—who turned them down because it hadn’t been through testing, a process that typically takes two to three years in peacetime. The Army of Drones said yes straight away, and Skyeton’s drones headed to the front, where they’re still flying.

Stepura, and others I spoke to, are convinced that this approach has given Ukraine an edge. This is a war between competing technologies, he says. “Today, we have in this test field in Ukraine everything that was developed around the world. And it turns out, it doesn’t work.”

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Surveillance drones like Boeing’s ScanEagle, previously billed as best-in-class, were too heavy, too slow to deploy, and too easy for the Russians to spot, he says. So the Army of Drones has gone for war-as-product-development, beta testing with “end users,” getting feedback, refining, picking winners. “The Army of Drones, all the time they communicate with end users, they collect information,” Stepura says. “They continue to invest into those companies that provide the product [about] which they've received good feedback.”

It’s easy to see Fedorov’s fingerprints on this approach. The deputy prime minister is taciturn, factual in his answers. (He’s far more expressive on Twitter.) But he’s at his most enthusiastic when he recounts a recent visit to a base on the front line near Zaporizhzhia. “The base is like an underground—actually underground—IT company. Everything is on screens with satellite connections, drone videos,” he says, with evident satisfaction. “The way people look and the way people talk, it’s just an IT company. A year ago, before the invasion, you wouldn’t see that.”

When I mention my meeting with Fedorov to Stepura, he beams. “He’s really good,” he says. “He’s really good. He’s a champion.” He might well be happy. The war, terrible as it’s been, has also been good for business. Skyeton has gone from 60 employees to 160. The drone industry is booming. A consensus estimate among half a dozen people I spoke with in the sector is that there are now around 100 viable military drone startups in Ukraine.

With the first, desperate phase of the war over, and the front line settling into more of a dynamic equilibrium, the Ministry of Digital Transformation wants to turn this startup arms business into a bona fide military-industrial complex. In April, the ministry, working with the military, launched Brave1, a “defense-tech” cluster to incubate promising technology that can first be deployed on the battlefield in Ukraine, and then be sold to customers overseas. In early June, the same fields where I watched new recruits learn the basics on DJI Mavics hosted a competition between 11 drone startups, who flew their birds in dogfights and over simulated trenches, watched over by Fedorov and an army general. The winner gets a chance at a contract with the military.

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“The defense forces and the startup communities are different worlds,” Nataliia Kushnerska, Brave1’s project lead, says. “In this project, everybody receives what they need. The general staff and Ministry of Defense receive really great solutions they can actually use. The Ministry of the Economy receives a growing ecosystem, an industry that you could use to recover the country.”

It’s been a balmy spring in Kyiv. Café crowds spill out onto street-side tables. Couples walk their dogs under the blossoms in the city’s sprawling parks and botanic gardens, and teenagers use the front steps of the opera house as a skate ramp. From 500 days’ distance, the desperate, brutal defense of the capital last year has slipped into memory. What’s replaced it is a strange new normal. Restaurants advertise their bunkers alongside their menus. On train station platforms, men and women in uniform wait with duffel bags and bunches of flowers—returning from or heading to the front. During the day the skies are clear of planes, an odd absence for a capital city. At night, there are the sirens: Mark Hamill on repeat. When I left, the counteroffensive was due to happen any day. Here and there people dropped hints—supplies they’d been asked to find, mysterious trips to the southeast. It began in June, with Ukrainian forces inching forward once more.

Victory isn’t assured, and there are many sacrifices yet to come. But there is now space—psychological, emotional, and economic—to think about what comes next. Before I left Kyiv, I spoke to Tymofiy Mylovanov, a former government minister and now president of the Kyiv School of Economics, who is known for his unfiltered political analysis. I asked him why this young government had defied the expectations of many pundits, who expected their anti-corruption drives and grand plans for digitization to founder, and for them to crumble before Russia’s onslaught. “Because people weren’t paying attention to the details,” Mylovanov says. Of Fedorov, he says simply: “He’s the future.”

The war has provided proof of concept not just for drones, or the tech sector, but for a government that was idealistic and untested—even for Ukraine, as a nation whose borders, sovereignty, and identity have been undermined for decades.

Brave1 is a small way for Ukraine to look forward, to turn the disaster it’s living through into a chance to build something new. The incubator isn’t hosted in an imposing military building staffed by men in fatigues, but in the Unit City tech hub in Kyiv, with beanbags, third-wave coffee stands, and trampolines built into the courtyard. It’s emblematic of the startup-ization of the war effort, but also of the way that the war has become background noise in many cases. Its moments are still shocking, but day to day there’s a need to just get on with business.

The war is always there—Fedorov still had to present his education project in the basement, not the ballroom—but it’s been integrated into the workflow. In March, Fedorov was promoted and given an expanded brief as deputy prime minister for innovation, education, science, and technology. He’s pushing the Diia app into new places. It now hosts courses to help Ukrainians retrain in tech, and motivational lectures from sports stars and celebrities. Ukrainians can use it to watch and vote in the Eurovision Song Contest. And they can use it to listen to emergency radio broadcasts, to store their evacuation documents, to apply for funds if their homes are destroyed, even to report the movements of Russian troops to a chatbot.

Speaking as he does, like a tech worker, Fedorov says these are exactly the kind of life-changing, tangible products he promised to create, all incremental progress that adds up to a new way of governing. Small acts of political radicalism delivered online. “Government as a service,” as he puts it. He’s rolling out changes to the education system. He’s reforming the statistical service. The dull things that don’t make headlines. Ordinary things that need to be done alongside the extraordinary ones. “The world keeps going,” he says. “While Ukraine fights for freedom.”

This article appears in the September/October 2023 edition of WIRED UK

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