Ukraine celebrates its tank-towing farmers with a stamp

Ukraine celebrates its tank-towing farmers with a stamp

Towed quietly by a tractor as if parked illegally, the Russian armored personnel carrier no longer looks so intimidating, and is even paraded in front of delighted Ukrainians, gathered to celebrate the capture.

This 1970s MT-LB was abandoned at the end of March by Russian forces after their withdrawal from northeastern Ukraine, 30 kilometers from the border between the two countries.

The vehicle was found by smiling tractor driver Vitali Denysenko, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, as he pulls his trophy around a field in the village of Mala Rogan.

“We needed two tractors to extract it, which we were able to do after the soldiers cleared the field,” the 44-year-old told a group of journalists gathered to cover the show.

Images of Russian tanks and other military vehicles being towed by Ukrainian tractors regularly make the rounds on social media, becoming a symbol of resistance to the invasion launched on February 24.

Vitali Denysenko followed the example of other farmers by donating his catch to the Ukrainian army.

“We can’t use it. What could we do with it? Take it to the village disco?” he jokes.

Ukrainian farmers commandeered so many Russian vehicles from areas occupied and then abandoned by Moscow forces that internet jokes began calling them the “fifth largest army” in Europe.

– Enthusiasm –

Their courage is now celebrated by the Ukrainian Post, present Thursday in Mala Rogan to launch a new stamp representing a tractor towing a Russian tank under a yellow sky.

According to Tetyana Fomenko, manager of the Kharkiv regional postal service’s stamp collection store, this is the fourth military-themed stamp issued during the war. Five million copies are to be put on sale.

While the identity of the first Ukrainian to tow a Russian tank is not known, the craze really took hold when Viktor Kytchouk and his friends took a Soviet T-80 tank on March 1 in Slatyné, a village of some 6,000 inhabitants about ten kilometers from the Russian border.

“We found a lot of vehicles and equipment in our village once it was liberated,” the 44-year-old told AFP, recalling shellfire raining down as they carried out their daring operation.

Once the tank was in their possession, they cut all the wiring, drilled out the optics, and tore the tank apart piece by piece to take them away.

Viktor Kychuk sent a video of him and his friends riding the tank to regional military chief Volodymyr Ussov, who posted it on YouTube, where the clip quickly went viral with some 350,000 views.

The Ukrainian postal service loves symbols of defiance against the Russian army. In April, it issued a stamp depicting a soldier giving a middle finger to the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

This ship, the Moskva, sank after a fire on board which was caused, according to kyiv, by a Ukrainian missile strike. Russia ensures for its part that the accident is due to an explosion of ammunition on board.

Thursday in kyiv, a huge queue formed in front of the central post office to acquire the latest fashionable stamp, despite the estimated three-hour wait.

“This is how we support the struggle of our people against the Russian aggressor,” Vitali, a 60-year-old longtime stamp collector, told AFP.

Part of the money raised by the sale of these stamps must go to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

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