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Ukraine’s Internet Army of ‘NAFO Fellas’ Fights Russian Trolls and Rewards Donors With Dogs-Hdmoviefreedownload

Ukraine has received more than 1 million tons of military equipment from NATO countries, including tanks, howitzers and ammunition. It has also received tons of support from NAFO in the form of sarcasm, ridicule and fundraising.

NAFO—the North Atlantic Fella Organization—has no relationship with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, other than playing on its name. It is an ad hoc collection of cybernauts, amateur artists and donors. They post on social media to back Ukraine and channel contributions to causes that buy equipment for soldiers, like the Georgian Legion of volunteers, or support humanitarian-aid campaigns like the Saint Javelin website.

The effort has probably encouraged more than $1 million in donations, estimates one of the founders of the fellas.

There is no command structure. Participants flood social-media platforms to mock Russia and its supporters while cheering for Ukraine, frequently turning pro-Russian commentary on its head. Images are often rough collages involving dogs clad in military gear or other clothing, superimposed onto war photos. Commentary is flecked with Russian words like “vatnik,” a pejorative for Kremlin fanatic, and co-opts poor English from Russia supporters’ posts, like the phrase “What air defense doing?”

Ukrainian Defense Minister

Oleksii Reznikov

and Estonian Prime Minister

Kaja Kallas

are NAFO fellas. Lithuanian Foreign Minister

Gabrielius Landsbergis

recently toured the Ukrainian port city of Odessa in a “NAFO FAN” T-shirt under his sport jacket. Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine who was imprisoned in Russia for almost three years, wore a similar shirt in an interview on MSNBC.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov is an official NAFO fella.



Photo:

sascha steinbach/Shutterstock

Russia has for years sought to influence public discourse in open societies though the internet. Western intelligence agencies have accused Moscow’s troll forces, including the Internet Research Agency, of having links to the Kremlin and trying to sway elections and foment controversy. But those posts are often stiff and humorless. NAFO is intentionally absurdist.

“It is really a way of calling out the insanity of Putin’s propaganda,” said Rep.

Adam Kinzinger

(R, Ill.), a self-declared fella. “It is great to see effective pushback.”

A NATO official said that the two organizations have no connection, but “we share the goal of supporting Ukraine and calling out Russian disinformation.” Such grass-roots communities “show the strength of free, democratic and diverse societies,” the official said.

NAFO emerged in the spring from social-media discussions among Ukraine’s supporters and from arguments with pro-Russian posters. A

Twitter

exchange in June with a Russian ambassador became a rallying point for Ukrainian partisans. Ukraine’s supporters took one of the Russian diplomat’s tweets in the thread—“You pronounced this nonsense. Not me.”–and made it a motto that now appears on T-shirts.

“A lot of it is spur-of-the-moment and things just click,” said one of NAFO’s founding members, a Pole who posts under the name Kama.

Looking for a new Twitter avatar early this year, Kama picked a furry Shiba Inu dog and edited Polish military togs onto the photo. The iconography clicked and soon Shiba Inus and other dogs—in all kinds of attire—were being cropped into anti-Russian imagery across the internet.

1664345526 326 Ukraines Internet Army of ‘NAFO Fellas Fights Russian Trolls and

Ukrainian soldiers take pictures of a mural titled Saint Javelin dedicated to the American shoulder-fired antitank weapons.



Photo:

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Around the same time, Kama addressed a fellow online Ukraine supporter as a fella. That spawned a chat about the friendly moniker, Kama said, from which emerged a mashup with NATO. Around the name and the mascot, a groundswell grew.

“It is the most organic movement I’ve been involved with,” said another NAFO founder, an American who posts as Pete.

For Kama and other fellas in parts of Europe once dominated by the Soviet Union, NAFO channels a Cold War tradition of mockery that for many people was the sole form of defense against repression.

“In Soviet time, the voices opposing the regime were underground,” said Mr. Landsbergis of Lithuania, which was the first Soviet republic to break free in 1990. “The beauty of all the current anti-Putin, antiregime efforts are that they are public, loud [and] visible.”

NAFO fellas make jokes out of Kremlin conspiracy theories. Many list their social-media profile location as Langley, Va.—homebase of the Central Intelligence Agency—to poke fun at frequent Russian allegations of CIA plots. The Twitter profile of Mr. Reed, the ex-Marine, says, “Not making $10k for Psyops”—military shorthand for psychological operations—with a wink emoji.

“You can’t fight with somebody you can’t reason with, so we won’t fight with them—we just ridicule them,” said Kama. “I like the idea that people like the Russian ambassador see a dog and still engage.”

NAFO gives donors who support Ukrainian causes avatars featuring Shiba Inu dogs. Courtesy Kama

More materially, the fellas support Ukraine’s war effort via Saint Javelin and a limited number of other causes. Saint Javelin is named in honor of the American shoulder-fired antitank weapons that helped defend Kyiv from Russia’s attack early this year. The site sells merchandise—including mock Slavic icons of a saintly woman holding a Javelin and NAFO gear—to raise money for humanitarian help to Ukraine.

Donors to NAFO-linked causes can post screenshots of their payments and request personalized avatars. NAFO now has more than 80 artist volunteers, dubbed forgers in an ironic allusion to working in the forge of a steel plant. Forgers receive about 50 requests for avatars from donors daily, said Pete, and as many as 10,000 have been created so far.

Behind each one is a donation or purchase of pro-Ukrainian merchandise, likely totaling over $1 million, Pete said, but no official tally is kept.

Rep. Kinzinger, a former Air Force pilot, received a dog wearing aviator gear in a toy fighter plane on wheels.

“I think it’s pretty awesome,” said Rep. Kinzinger, who didn’t understand the dog-for-donation equation until after he had declared support for NAFO on Twitter. He said he has only chatted a bit with other members of Congress about the movement.

“It is hard to explain until you see it in action—until you see, Hey, we’re a bunch of furry dogs that push back against disinformation,” he said.

Mr. Reed, who was released from Russian captivity in April through a prisoner exchange orchestrated by the White House, has a dog in Marine camouflage, carrying a military assault rifle.

“Oh, man—this something I definitely want to get involved with,” he recalled thinking when he stumbled on NAFO earlier this month. “I’m just glad to be part of anything that is undermining the bear,” he said in reference to Russia’s national symbol.

Write to Daniel Michaels at [email protected]

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