Russian “Little Green Men” Memorial Gets Cat Treatment

You could even say the little green men’s invasion was “purrfectly planned.” Photo Credit: Stéfan via Flickr

If an invasion led by unidentifiable, but presumably Russian, troops wasn’t odd enough for you, the memorial statue honoring their efforts may be.

According to The Moscow Times, these unmarked troops will receive their own monument in the city of Belogorsk, which is located in Russia’s far east. Location-wise, the city is far closer to China than it is to Ukraine.

The statue — which will be unveiled on May 6, just days before Russia’s 70th Victory Day celebration — will feature an iron-claud masked man holding a kitten and will be around 5’11” in height (approximately 180 centimeters). The artist’s choice of pet has become a social media talking point in some circles.

While odd, a statue featuring a kitten may have historical precedent.

Cats have a long history of involvement in wars in the region. During the Crimean War (1853–1856), a cat now known as either Sevastopol Tom or Crimean Tom saved French and British soldiers from starvation by pointing them toward a hidden cache of supplies left by the Russians. Tom was adopted by one of the soldiers and returned to the U.K. with him, only to die a year later. The government honored Tom by stuffing, mounting and eventually adding him to the National Army Museum’s collection.

Stuffed tabby cat ‘Crimean Tom’, 1855. Photo Credit: National Army Museum

There has yet to be a Sevastopol Tom for the 21st century, but pets have played a ubiquitous role in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Russia’s invasion in early 2014 spurred its own cat-centric meme back in the spring of 2014. RuNet users began posting pictures of cats (there were a few dogs and rabbits, too) donning the orange and black St. George’s ribbon under the hashtag #сепаратяка, which translates to “little separatist.” The ribbon has been used by politicians and the pro-Putin crowd to express their support for invading Ukraine.

Meanwhile, both the separatists and Ukrainian fighters have reportedly taken a number of felines under their wing. In a series published by VICE Netherlands, photojournalist Tom Daams captured a number of images of troops affiliated with Ukraine’s Right Sector holding weapons — such automatic rifles, grenades and even a rocket launcher — while playing with the battalion’s adopted cat, Bublik. “To them, Bublik is a rock of wisdom in a sea of shit,” Daams said.

Other strays have found homes with civilians. Valentyna Prokopchyk, dubbed the Ukrainian cat rescuer by English-language news broadcaster Ukraine Today, captured the attention of animal lovers everywhere after she rescued some 46 cats from the occupied region of Luhansk and brought them to a village outside of Kyiv.

Whether the kitten in Belogorsk’s soon-to-be-unveiled statue is a hat tip to a meme, a testament to the soldiers’ love of cats, or merely a nice touch is something that remains unclear.

This post originally appeared at Foreign Policy Blogs.