Monday, September 01, 2014


Transmission

Ukraine's Ruling Party Gets Catty, Opposition Bares Its Claws

The official reason this humorous poster was taken down is because it apparently used an "obscene" word.
The official reason this humorous poster was taken down is because it apparently used an "obscene" word.

Multimedia

For the second week in a row, Ukrainian social networks have been awash with cats.

As cute little kitties tend to abound everywhere on the Internet, you might think this is hardly unusual.

But these felines are at the heart of an intriguing political row ahead of Ukraine's parliamentary elections in just over two months.

The story made headlines when antigovernment billboards that took a humorous swipe at the ruling Party of Regions were pasted over in the eastern city of Dniprodzerzhynsk in the Dnipropetrovsk region.

One of the billboards depicted a cat with an elderly woman who says: "I found out my grandson voted for the Party of Regions, so I rewrote [my will] to give my house to the cat."

Photographs of the old lady and her kitty soon appeared on social media and have been making the rounds ever since.

Rumors quickly circulated that the billboards were removed because local officials wanted to put a halt to such negative campaigning, an accusation that they deny.
Opposition politician Maksym HolosnyyOpposition politician Maksym Holosnyy
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Opposition politician Maksym Holosnyy
Opposition politician Maksym Holosnyy

The owner of the billboard space has also denied that there was any pressure from the authorities to get rid of the posters.

In a video address published on YouTube on August 18, Olena Dzarasova said that a decision was taken to remove the billboard with the cat because of "an obscene word."

She neglected to mention which word had caused such offense.

Dzarasova also accused the man behind the ad campaign, Maksym Holosnyy, of falsely claiming that she had ended up in the emergency room at a hospital after being contacted by a high-ranking official.

Man On The Run

Holosnyy, 30, is running for parliament in the elections, which are scheduled for October 28.

He is also running away from the police.

The former regional village head went into hiding after the authorities launched a criminal investigation against him over theft allegations.

He claims that the charges are politically motivated because of his oppositionist stance, but police insist the probe has nothing to do with the antigovernment billboard campaign he created.

Writing to RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, Holosnyy said he had not expected the cat billboard to achieve such notoriety.

He believes it was the local authorities' heavy-handed response that made his campaign so popular.

"[Without them] the most people we could have hoped to reach would have been a small percentage of residents on the left bank of Dniprodzerzhynsk," he said.

"The main motive [for the advertising campaign] was to protest," he added. "It was a protest against monotonous and dull political advertising, a protest against false 'improvements,' against the blatant PR of the authorities, the one-sided presentation of information by corrupt media, the repression of political dissent and, ultimately, against elections without choice."

Although Holosnyy is no longer affiliated with any party, he himself used to be a member of the Party of Regions. He told RFE/RL that he became a member in 2004 when he was still an architecture student "partly as a result of his opposition" to the Orange Revolution.

Nonetheless, Holosnyy maintains he was not active in the party and did not pay membership fees, even though he decided to renew his membership in 2010 in order to be elected as a village head.

"I was told in private that it would be difficult for me to get elected without being on the Party of Regions' ticket, and I wanted to give it a try," he said.

However, Holosnyy was expelled from the ruling party in 2011. He believes this happened because of his independent views.

Grassroots Campaign

Now it seems his billboard attack on the party has sparked a grassroots opposition campaign.

On August 19, a small group of "Grandmother and Cat" supporters gathered for their first public meeting on the other side of the country in the western town of Ternopil.

Two participants, including a regional council deputy, even brought cats to the meeting.

A "Grandmother and Cat" Facebook group has also been set up and currently has nearly 3,000 members. There are several other Internet groups dedicated to the same theme.

PHOTO GALLERY: Some of the creative ways that photoshoppers have spun the "kotofot" scandal since it broke:

  • One Facebook user poached an iconic scene from "Pulp Fiction" to ask menacingly whether readers were Party of Regions supporters: "Regional? So Bye."
  • Ukrainian First Lady Lyudmila Yanukovych's face was photoshopped in as the granny, warning, "If you don't go back to Yenakiyeve, I'll bequeath my cottage to the cat."
  • After lawyer Timur Kryukov contributed an article on the legality of transferring property to a cat, this image emerged of mock Soviet-style paperwork in the form of an "order" giving a cat the right to reside in the cottage.
  • This image shows Prime Minister Azarov saying, "I learned that my son wants to be a deputy. He advised me to list a cat."
  • Russia's Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev mockingly urge Yanukovych to "pet the cat." "Which one?" "This one!"
  • Cats shown "queing up outside the Donetsk property office."
  • Yanukovych says, "I came to know my wife didn't vote for Regions, so I transferred [presidential residence] Mezhigoria to a cat."
  • Who's for castration? this image asks rhetorically, adding, "Hey Lady, not castration but lustration."
  • "And did your grandson vote? I simply wonder who'll be last to get a cottage."
  • A mock "Wanted" poster warns of the formation of a very dangerous gang, dubbed "Babussy Cat."
  • "Grandson, we're waiting for your choice."
  • A mock "Forbes Magazine" cover
  • Yanukovych: "Cat? No. No, haven't seen it."


In fact, it has become such a ubiquitous meme that some Ukrainian social-network users have already started to complain that they have had their fill of cats.

But, as prominent blogger Yuri Lukanov has pointed out, this spontaneous outburst of creativity is unlikely to be silenced until it runs out of steam by itself.

Funnily enough, one of the last people to find out about the whole billboard brouhaha is the grandmother in the picture.

Local media have reported -- and Holosnyy has since admitted -- that the photograph of the old lady on the placard was filched from the Internet.

Apparently, she is a woman who lives in Russia and knew nothing about her new role in Ukraine until she became a web sensation.

-- Maryana Drach
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: sergeyevitch
August 20, 2012 21:10
How typical of the PofR, what are they afraid of.... a cute pussy cat and a Grandmother?

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
August 21, 2012 04:34
It's interesting how the Ukrainian opposition is starting to play the age card in this electoral campaign: just a few years ago sites like this one were systematically claiming that the old Soviet generation was primarily voting for the Communist Party and kind of suggesting that the time was going to "resolve" this "problem" in the most natural way.
And here we go: it is 2012 and the Ukrainian pro-US oppostion is apparently looking for support of the elrder generation in their "heroic struggle" against the "bloody regime of Ynoukowitsch". I wish you, guys, good luck because you will absolutely need it :-)!

by: Roman Zak from: Los angeles
August 21, 2012 19:50
The obscene word was regions.

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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