December 1, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

War in Ukraine: Patron, Stepan and "quadruped" propaganda

His name is “Patron”, he received a Medal of Courage from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for the war-torn country.

He is a mine detection specialist, his name is “Patron”, he even has his own YouTube channel, and he participated in the Cannes Film Festival. And he is a purebred Jack Russell Terrier.

The Russians, to spite Patron, brought a raccoon from the Kherson Zoo and created a Telegram channel for it, which has about 50 thousand subscribers. The Russian military gave him a rank and, of course, filmed him as often as possible, like an animal that “crossed over” and from Ukraine, where it belonged, went over to the Russian side in the war. It became a symbol of the battles of Russian troops.

The Independent made a video on this topic.

The regional news feed of the Rossiya 1 TV channel in Kostroma published a report about a raccoon “evacuated” from the Kherson Zoo, which, according to them, is becoming “a symbol of our paratroopers and their victories.”

Animals, when not killed or left alone and neglected, seem to play a role in the war that Russia has been waging against Ukraine for more than a year and a half. After all, it is well known that, at least on social networks, posts with animals go viral. Not to mention the propaganda of war, rescue from war zones and rubble, the love shown by military personnel for surviving animals, and courageous volunteering, when blood is shed in abundance, “hits” directly on the heart and emotions, which can lead to anger on the one who causes the death of innocent souls, human and non-human.

Hollywood tricks… in war

For the same reasons that Hollywood screenwriters encourage opening scenes to portray the protagonist as someone who has rescued an animal in order to gain audience sympathy, it is hard not to admire the bravery of animal rescue charities operating in the midst of war, writes Matt Broomfield in Unherd. .

As far back as the time of Alexander the Great, animals were a key tool for propaganda or grandeur.

However, according to him, “increased attention to animals can be disappointing, especially when these feelings seem to outweigh compassion for the human toll of war. In the early weeks of the conflict, neighboring countries opened their borders to pets accompanying their owners, but did not extend the same courtesy to African students who were excluded from the process“.

Despite this, animals remain one of the main tools of war propaganda, as well as being part of the dramatic Hollywood script. And this is not unprecedented: Alexander the Great almost deified Bucephalus; Simon Bolivar, in his Bolivian struggle, also symbolized a horse given by a peasant woman; the same thing happened with Napoleon, who also deified his horse Marengo. Vladimir Putin was also photographed half-naked on horseback, and a huge propaganda photo opportunity for the Russian president was the image of the bear he allegedly rode. Moreover, the funny thing is that 90% of Westerners did not even doubt the authenticity of the image.

Caring for animals as an indicator of humanity

Saving animals is an indicator of humanity. Their participation in the war, such as Patrona on the Ukrainian side, highlights the self-sacrifice, intelligence and courage that fighters must show in defending their homeland. They become talismans indicating that everything that lives and breathes must be saved or destroyed. In war, no one can be superfluous. They are, of course, used vice versa.

Cruelty to animals is further proof of the cruelty of war, but especially of the enemy. When such innocent and defenseless souls are treated this way, how can you show compassion to a person who can even resist?

In fact, Ukraine, which has proven, especially thanks to Vladimir Zelensky, the impressive effectiveness of media propaganda of its positions, has gone further. Videos with various species of animals participating in the war in one way or another flooded official and unofficial Internet accounts. A dog helps in the trenches, a Ukrainian soldier looks after a rabbit, and a Ukrainian flag adorns a turtle’s shell.

Patron – Hero of Ukraine

Patron, of course, remains the number one hero of Ukrainian defense, appearing on the country’s postage stamps. He is almost four years old, he discovered hundreds of planted explosives and before he was… drafted into the army, he was a model animal for trainers, participating in exhibitions and festivals. He loves cheese and, according to the New York Times, is central to the Ukrainian war narrative on social media, with every post going viral. At the same time, the publication notes that Patron has become an object of worship in Ukraine, is loved by children and, according to the Ukrainian president, helps them understand safety rules in areas where there is a mine danger.

NAFO and satire on Russians
Seeing the worship of Patron and all animals in the propaganda of Ukrainian positions, an additional communication tool was created: NAFO – North Atlantic Fella Organization, an Internet movement with roots in the United States that seeks out Russian propaganda positions and satirizes them with memes featuring animals.

Another major achievement of NAFO (obviously referring to NATO) was the collection of at least $1 million for Ukrainian troops. For everyone who donates money, an American former NATO soldier, as SkyNews reports, has created a team that, as a “thank you,” creates avatars tailored to each donor, as well as mugs and T-shirts in support of Ukrainians. Many are wondering if this is yet another CIA propaganda effort in support of Ukraine, something the team members vehemently deny, declaring, “We just don’t like bullies,” a direct reference to Putin’s Russia.

Stepan from Kharkov

Besides Patron, there is also Stepan from Kharkov – but he is a cat. Before the war, as the BBC writes, Stepan was just another incredibly cute Internet cat. However, since the Russian invasion he has been called up to fight in the war. His Instagram account has 1.3 million followers and is used primarily to raise awareness among animal-loving users and spread the Ukrainian message.

However, today, Tuesday, the Russian-Ukrainian war continues for the 580th day. People and animals are still dying, and no solution – diplomatic, military or otherwise – is in sight. The saddest thing is that neither side even wants this, relying on their own ambitions.

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