Some Notes on the FTX Ukraine Conspiracy Theory

From Coindesk:

Last week, a theory spread on Twitter and right-wing websites suggesting the U.S. government’s massive aid to the besieged nation rebounded to the U.S. Democratic party via the failed FTX crypto exchange, which was an official partner of Ukrainian government for the crypto fundraising campaign.

…Neither Ukrainian government nor FTX ever announced an investment event of any sorts. Such a move would have been extravagant for a nation fielding a full-scale military invasion from Russia using military and financial aid from the U.S., E.U., U.K. and other countries, observers have been quick to point out.

The false claim of an “investment” is a wild extrapolation from old news that Ukraine had “partnered with FTX in March to cash out crypto donations and turn them into ammunition and humanitarian aid”. As Alex Bornyakov, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation, now writes:

A fundraising crypto foundation @_AidForUkraine used @FTX_Official to convert crypto donations into fiat in March. Ukraine’s gov never invested any funds into FTX. The whole narrative that Ukraine allegedly invested in FTX, who donated money to Democrats is nonsense, frankly 🤦‍♂️

This is also confirmed by someone involved with Aid for Ukraine:

The funds were converted to fiat, then transferred immediately to the government account in the National Bank of Ukraine and spent. 54 Million+ of those was spent this summer – you can check the monthly reports at

Despite the lack of evidence for any “investment”, the inherent inplausiblity of the claim, and the obvious way the allegation has been concocted by twisting the story from March, the false narrative is currently dominating social media.

Its rise via Zerohedge and Gateway Pundit is charted on a blog called Did Nothing Wrong, written by Jay McKenzie, who also provides a detailed critique and an explanation for its popularity:

This narrative is an excuse for the poor Republican performance in the midterms. It’s an attack line against Joe Biden by tying him and the Democratic Party to “corruption in Ukraine”—with the search for this supposed corruption still a MAGA open wound that led to Donald Trump’s first impeachment. It also gives further justification for ending aid to Ukraine, as increasing numbers of politicians and voters on the right are pushing for. The usual reasons for astroturfed disinformation campaigns also apply. This is about sowing doubt and confusion. It’s an opportunity for junk news purveyors to convince more people to click on a link and provide them with ad revenue.

In the UK, the conspiracy theory has been promoted with trademark smugness by James Melville, a frequent commentator on GB News and Talk TV whose public profile is based purely on self-promotion rather than expertise in anything. Melville’s engagement is typically superficial: seeing an extravagant claim makes him feel clever, and amplifying it to his 360,000 followers creates a mutual appreciation feedback loop that disincentivises due diligence, caution or common sense. In this case, he further argues that the story shows that the term “conspiracy theory” has been used to suppress true information.

Also on board is another GB News regular: Calvin Robinson, who now appears on the channel wearing a cassock and dog collar after having been ordained into a fringe breakaway Anglican denomination. The reverend suggests that Ukraine “was a money laundering operation all along”, claiming that “the West donated billions to the ‘war effort'” and that “Zelensky invested that money into FTX”. In a follow up, he clarifies “no evidence of Zelenskyy investing in FTX” (followed by an enigmatic asterisk), before linking FTX to Covid conspiricism: “FTX backed the research that found ivermectin to be ‘ineffective’. FTX donated $39m to Dems, but also donated $ to Republicans who were ‘prepared for next pandemic'”.

Another part of the FTX conspiracy theory is the detail that FTX used to be listed as a “partner” on the website of the World Economic Forum, but the WEF has now deleted its webpage announcing this. The New York Post has reported this under the headline “How World Economic Forum, others are hiding their past ties with FTX”; this implies something underhand, although one wonders what the WEF ought to have done instead. According to the article itself:

“FTX was a World Economic Forum partner. In light of last week’s events, their partnership was suspended and they were removed from the Partners section of our website,” a spokesman for the Geneva-based organization headed by Klaus Schwab told The Post on Monday.

According to one WEF insider, Bankman-Fried likely landed on the group’s site because he donated cash to the group, in addition to his upcoming speaking gig.

The former partnership is seen by conspiricists as further evidence of the WEF’s supposed control over world events, rather than as an example of how it has has a tendency to latch onto anything big in order to promote itself and in this instance has been embarrassed.