Artillery shells send a loud message no matter who is shooting them, but recent photos on social media of bombs, bullets, and missiles headed to Ukraine appear to show that several nations want to be sure that their Russian targets get the memo.
Pictures posted to Twitter appear to show messages scrawled across artillery shells and perhaps even fighter jet-mounted missiles from countries like Latvia and the Czech Republic, expressing national pride and vengeance toward Russians:
“Nothing has been forgotten, nothing has been forgiven.”
“For those who were shot — Prague Spring 1968.”
“For Katyn 1940.”
A long list of nations has been providing Ukraine with missiles and bombs since Russian forces invaded the country in late February, including most of those that make up Eastern Europe. A State Department official told Coffee or Die Magazine, “To date, nearly 40 countries have joined [the United States] to deliver security assistance since Russia’s all-out invasion began.”
It’s perhaps unsurprising that arms from Eastern European nations intended to fight a Russian army might communicate national grudges. Most of Eastern Europe — including Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic nations of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania — were absorbed by the Soviet Union for the latter half of the 20th century. Others, like Poland and the Czech Republic, were under Moscow’s domination in the Warsaw Pact.
Not surprisingly, it is arms from several of these nations that appear to carry messages of defiance.
According to EuroWeekly News, Ukraine’s State Border Service showed off inscribed missiles from the Czech Republic. Translated from Czech to English, one of the messages read, “For those who were shot — Prague Spring 1968.” Czechoslovaks began to Westernize in a popular movement known as the Prague Spring in early 1968, which Soviet forces quickly smothered with an invasion of 250,000 soldiers and 2,000 tanks later that year. The Soviet Union crushed the pro-Western movement, and more than 100 civilians died in the process.
Another unverified photo on Twitter shows a shell casing with Polish scrawls. Translated from Polish to English, the casing reads, “For Katyn 1940.” The Katyn massacre was a series of mass executions of over 20,000 Polish military officers carried out by the Soviet Union’s NKVD during World War II. The People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, or the NKVD, was in charge of the Soviet Union’s law enforcement activities and is known for its role in political repression.
The Polish photo links to a Telegram channel where people can allegedly make a donation, then include a message for Ukrainian soldiers to write on a munition before using it against Russian forces. However, one Twitter user replied on May 16 that “apparently, the offer is temporarily suspended, too many orders.”
And a trio of bombs allegedly from Latvia show markings that read, “Greetings from Latvia,” “Nothing has been forgotten, nothing has been forgiven,” and “For Litene” — a reference to another Soviet-era massacre.
During the Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1941, the NKVD executed 200 Latvian officers in Litene as part of the “Year of Terror.”
One final unverified picture, which has been floating around social media since at least mid-May — shows a munition scrawled with a message in Dutch that translates to “Revenge for MH17.” That note would track with a simmering feud between the Netherlands and Russia regarding responsibility for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The flight, with many Dutch citizens on board, took off from Amsterdam on July 17, 2014, and was shot down by a Buk surface-to-air missile launched from a pro-Russian separatist-controlled area of Ukraine’s Donbas region.
Two hundred eighty-three passengers and 15 crew members died on the flight, including 193 Dutch nationals.