Activists in Ukraine have resorted to using kittens and stuffed animals to spread warm and fuzzy feelings throughout their troubled country.
The Public Sector of the Lviv Maidan, a pro-Ukraine group in the western city of Lviv, have adorned a train carriage with giant feline pictures and a message that says “keep calm,” according to their Facebook page.
Inside, the car is filled with stuffed animals, books, and cushions donated by residents of Lviv. Beer and coffee will also be provided on the journey.
The kitty carriage is set to travel to the southeast city of Odessa on May 20, and then back to Lviv the next day. The group say the car aims to spread "coziness, calm, and the long-forgotten feeling of confidence in what is going to happen tomorrow."
The organizers said the “friendship” train seeks to travel between east and west as a way to stitch together a country that has been so bitterly divided.
Specifically, the carriage aims to dispel the image that activists in the west are violent neo-Nazi sympathizers who are determined to massacre Russians.
This image of pro-Ukrainian groups as roving bands of fascists has been promoted by the Russian propaganda machine since the start of the conflict. Since many Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine rely on Russian state media, this narrative has helped Moscow to sway public opinion in parts of the region.
The train's reach is not just limited to Odessa and Lviv, however. "We would like to invite those citizens of Donetsk, who have the greatest fears and most affected propaganda to travel on this wagon," said one of the coordinators. The activists reportedly submitted a letter of appeal to the deputy chief of the Lviv railway who agreed to help with the effort.
It remains unclear how residents of Odessa will greet the train if it gets there, but if kittens and free beer don’t join people together, who knows what will.
Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928