Investor Yuri Milner is pledging $100 million to launch a new initiative that will aid Ukrainian refugees amid the ongoing war with Russia. This marks the latest effort from the Silicon Valley mogul–who is worth an estimated $7.3 billion thanks in part to early investments in Facebook and Twitter–to show support for Ukrainians.
The initiative, “Tech for Refugees,” involves a partnership between the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, a nonprofit group cofounded by Milner and his wife, Julia, in 2012, and prominent tech companies, including vacation rental giant Airbnb, freight forwarding company Flexport and audio streaming service Spotify. The initial money from the foundation will be used to support efforts currently underway by these companies to help Ukrainian refugees, like Airbnb’s provision of free, short-term housing and Flexport’s organization of humanitarian shipments to refugee sites.
The partners also plan to support new aid initiatives moving forward. “We have been devastated by the heartbreaking suffering of the Ukrainian people,” the Milners said in a statement. “We believe that this initiative, in partnership with some of the world’s most creative technology companies and organizations, can provide practical assistance for people living in turmoil outside their homeland.”
Though “Tech for Refugees” will start by focusing on the more than 11 million people who have been forced to flee Ukraine, Milner and his partners plan to turn it into a broader effort that will help refugees in other regions of the world. Alice McGillon, Milner’s spokesperson, said foundations linked to Yuri and Julia, who have signed the Giving Pledge promising to give at least half of their fortune to charity, have committed more than $700 million to scientific and humanitarian causes over the past decade.
According to the announcement, “Tech for Refugees” was inspired by the fundraising campaign launched in March by actress Mila Kunis, who is from Ukraine, and her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher. The pair’s Stand With Ukraine GoFundMe has raised nearly $36 million, which is also being donated to Flexport and Airbnb through their non-profit arms.
Susy Schöneberg, the head of Flexport.org, said in an April 11 video that the group had facilitated 33 shipments of humanitarian supplies to eastern Europe that are being dispersed by over a dozen aid organizations including Unicef, Save the Children and Project Cure. Meanwhile, Airbnb had put up more than 5,000 refugees, according to Katherine Woo of Airbnb.org.
The Milners previously contributed $5.5 million to Stand With Ukraine through the Breakthrough Foundation and Yuri’s investment fund, DST Global. They also pledged a further $3 million in March of 2022 to support Ukrainian victims of the war, as well as another $3 million to organizations aiding scientists, mathematicians and physicists fleeing from Ukraine.
Both the Breakthrough Foundation and DST Global have released statements condemning the war.
Milner is a dual citizen of Israel and Russia who lives in the U.S. on a special visa.
Milner says the cause of Ukraine is important to him especially because of his personal connections to the country. “My own family is Ukrainian on my father’s side, and I spent many summers there in my childhood with my cousins,” he says “Our responsibility right now is to respond to the urgent needs of refugees by focusing our network and resources on this humanitarian catastrophe.
In February of 2021 our publication Lifestyles Magazine/Meaningful influence featured the first exclusive interview with Dr. Katalin Kariko, the scientist behind the mRNA discovery that resulted in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Having read about this game changing medical breakthrough in our Lifestyles Magazine/Meaningful Influence, Mr. Milner supported the nomination of Professors Katalin Kariko and her research partner Dr. Drew Weisman for the prestigious 2022 Breakthrough Prize which was subsequently awarded to the inventors of the COVID vaccine in Life Sciences.