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Russia's Trojan-Transformer Convoy to Ukraine

Trojan transformers. Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Trojan transformers. Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Just hours after NATO warned of a “high probability” that Russia will invade Ukraine on the pretext of delivering humanitarian aid, Moscow announced a humanitarian mission to Eastern Ukraine. Russia's decision raised tensions in the region, but Ukrainian President Poroshenko soon announced that he spoke with President Obama regarding a humanitarian mission, revealing that the Red Cross will participate. Russia—along with the United States, Germany, and other nations—would be part of an international group delivering aid to Luhansk.

With a broad coalition of nations ready to help the suffering people of Luhansk, this is uncomplicatedly happy news, yes?

Unfortunately, nothing lately has worked out smoothly between Ukraine and Russia. This morning, Ukraine has said it will deny entry to Russia's convoy of 280 trucks, said to be carrying thousands of tons of humanitarian aid. The Ukrainian military is suspicious of Russia’s intentions, saying it will wait for the Red Cross to verify of the contents of all parcels.

This mystery over the endless line of white trucks headed for the Ukrainian border has led many on the RuNet to imagine what is in the trucks—or what the Ukrainian military suspects is in them. Many have pointed to a possible “Trojan horse attack”—an idea easily suggested by the similarity of the Russian words for convoy (konvoi) and horse (kon').

Trojan Horse 2014: Humanitarian Mission from Russia to the Donbas.

The humanitarian convoy from Russia.

Popular Internet user Russian Market, known both for his commentary on Russia and Ukraine and on financial markets, thinks the West is being paranoid:

Finding inspiration in more recent popular culture, Andrei Maksimov jokes that Ukraine's military experts seem to believe Russian trucks possess the abilities of Transformers:

Ding! Ding! The Tymchuk military experts have unraveled the Kremlin’s cunning plan.

Others have looked to unverified posts in Russian social media for evidence of an actual Trojan horse strategy. LiveJournal user Andrei Malgin collected photos from a now-deleted profile page on VKontakte, which showed military vehicles painted white. The user posted the photos with the message, “Humanitarian aid to Donetsk and Luhansk,” alongside other photos that clearly show a military presence in the area. The photos are not quite a smoking gun, but it does suggest that Russian soldiers are slow learners when it comes to appreciating the importance of discreteness in social media.

While the likelihood of an actual Russian invasion through the humanitarian convoy is quite low, the timing of NATO’s warning and the heavy buildup of Russian forces on the border has been more than enough to captivate RuNet users and encourage a variety of jokes and fears, from ancient Greek history to Japanese action toys.

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