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Russian Portal Supports Syrian Air Strikes With Paper Planes, Computer Games

  • Anna Shamanska

Flash-mob participants are instructed to craft paper planes and write inspirational messages for the Russian military pilots. They should then upload photos of their handiwork to social media using the hashtag.

Flash-mob participants are instructed to craft paper planes and write inspirational messages for the Russian military pilots. They should then upload photos of their handiwork to social media using the hashtag.

Most Russians -- 54 percent, according to independent pollster Levada Center -- support the Russian air strikes in Syria that began over a month ago.

But in an effort to amplify that support, an online portal called Kill Igil -- "IGIL" is the Russian abbreviation for the militant group Islamic State (IS) -- has started a flash mob under the hashtag #killigil.

Flash-mob participants are instructed to craft paper planes and write inspirational messages for the Russian military pilots. They should then upload photos of their handiwork to social media using the hashtag.

The flash mob's page on Instagram so far has 90 photos. The first, uploaded by organizers, shows an elaborate paper plane in Russian colors with red stars on its wings "flying" above a map of Syria and neighboring countries. A giant black stain that covers much of Syria and spills into Iraq is labeled "IGIL."

The map differs significantly from those created by the BBC, The Atlantic, the Institute for the Study of War, and RFE/RL's own, ascribing "IGIL" control to far more territory than all those media do. Russia's definition of "terrorists" has been at the heart of its dispute with Turkey, the United States, and their anti-IS allies over its month-old intervention in Syria, since Moscow appears to be targeting any armed opponents of President Bashar al-Assad's regime with its bombardment.

Other posts wish the pilots luck with proclamations like "It's time to save the world from terrorism."

"Terrorism is a sickness! Meet the doctor!" reads another plane.

Maria Katasonova, an aide to Russian presidential advisory-board member Yevgeny Fyodorov, also took part in the flash mob.

Schoolchildren from the Kaduysky district in Russia's Vologda Oblast participated in a more organized fashion. According to local online news portal Newsvo.ru, elementary, middle-, and high-school students and their teachers flew more than 200 paper planes in the schoolyard.

"After the first class the entire school went to the square in front of the school porch. Guys laid out the paper planes in the shape of a big fighter jet, and then everybody flew their planes into an improvised enemy," the portal writes, quoting a 10th-grader.

The website behind the flash mob appears to be relatively new. Although it doesn't have any contact information or even bylines on its published articles, its page on Russian social-media network VK describes it as "the real story about Russian superheroes' fight against IS terrorists."

The Kill Igil VK group posted its first message on October 14, the day IS urged Muslims to launch a "holy war" against Russians and Americans. By November 3, the group had almost 1,500 followers. The portal also features a link to an online game under the same name created by the website's "friends." It claims it was made for those who want to help Russian pilots fight IS militants "without leaving home."

Entering the game, you get control over a Russian fighter jet flying over a desert. The player has to shoot "terrorists" dressed in different uniforms as they rush toward the plane. Every so often, a caricature of a smiling U.S. President Barack Obama holding a U.S. flag flies onto the screen -- the player is encouraged to shoot this caricature, too.

Accurate hits earn different types of ammunition, as well as stars and medals.

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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