The University of Samara in southwestern Russia has been exhorting its students to collect and hand in used electronic cigarettes to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a report in the Russian independent publication Novaya Gazeta Europe (NGE).

The collection drive has been organized and is being carried out by volunteers from the university’s “Falcon patriotic military club.” Instructions were issued in a leaflet handed out on campus and also posted on the social media site VKontakte (Russia’s equivalent of Facebook).

The flyer, is based on a famous Soviet-era anti-drinking poster, but replaces the glass of vodka with an e-cigarette with the legend “1 e-cigarette = 1 drone attack on the enemy!”

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It then explains that it is not the e-cigarettes themselves that are needed at the front line, but their parts — microcircuits and batteries — which are repurposed to operate ammunition release systems from combat drones.

According to the volunteer group it decided to start the collection drive after being approached by “people involved in the special military operation” (Russia’s euphemism for its war in Ukraine) and has placed collection boxes around the university.

The Falcon military club was formed by the Samara University Military Department in 2008. The club’s founding statement says its purpose is to provide students with a patriotic education, which since the 2014 annexation of parts of Ukraine has been to “teach courage” to local schoolchildren.

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Since the 2022 full-scale invasion it has been collecting “humanitarian aid” for fighting troops which has included faulty mobile phones, camping stoves, clothing and food.

Ukrainians led the way

The Ukrainian news site Suspilne reported on a similar scheme set up in Ukraine’s Chernivtsi Polytechnic College in southwestern Ukraine in April. Its students were recycling components from the e-cigarettes to make the drop mechanisms for drones and “powerbanks” to allow troops in the field to recharge their mobile phones.

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The students make different sizes of the droppers, depending on the size and weight of the munition to be carried. One of the college professors designed them and they are produced using a 3d printer in a science workshop.

The Chernivtsi Polytechnic College designed a drone “munitions dropper.”

Photo: Suspilne Chernivtsi

More than 30 batteries are used to create one rechargeable power bank that holds enough power to last about ten days between charges. The power banks were designed by a student at college, who made the first one for his father serving on the front line.

Assembling the Chernivtsi Polytechnic College designed power bank.

Photo: Suspilne Chernivtsi

Just as in Samara, the initiative to start making the devices came from requests received from troops deployed to the front. In Chernivtsi’s case, this was from college graduates, of whom about 60 are fighting against Russia.  The college has put out collection boxes in which students place the used smoking devices that they collect from places around the local area.

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