Truth, as we well know by now, is often the first casualty of war. And with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a new weapon of resistance has emerged — online content that fits a wartime narrative, used to rally the people. Of course, this isn’t the first war we’ve seen in the digital era, and it certainly isn’t the first modern conflict to also be fought online. But what feels different this time is how Ukrainian civilians and their government are using online content to drum up a sense of collective hope while also winning international support.
A perfect example has to be the fine art of stealing Russian tanks, which the Ukrainian people have turned into an act of high comedy and powerful form of propaganda — whether or not these videos are true is really beside the point.
This wave of tankjacking has been given full-throated support by the Ukrainian government. In fact, this week, Ukraine’s National Agency for the Protection Against Corruption issued a declaration that stolen Russian tanks are fair game and, even better than that, they’re exempt from taxes. “Have you captured a Russian tank or armored personnel carrier and are worried about how to declare it? Keep calm and continue to defend the Motherland!” the agency implored. “There is no need to declare the captured Russian tanks and other equipment, because the cost of this … does not exceed 100 living wages (UAH 248,100).”
Translation: There’s no need to report a stolen tank on your taxes, or to even file a transfer of ownership.
“Thanks to the courage and victory of the defenders of the Ukrainian state, enemy military equipment usually comes to you already destroyed and disabled, which makes it impossible to evaluate it in accordance with the law on the valuation of property, property rights and professional valuation activities in Ukraine,” the agency continued. “Therefore, it is also impossible to find out how much such property costs.”
This announcement specifically comes on the heels of tankjacking tutorials posted by young Ukrianians on TikTok.
They’ve proven so popular that there’s now a growing spate of videos of Ukrainians running amok in stolen Russian tanks. A personal fav is the Ukrainian pizza party in a stolen Russian tank.
Then, there’s this one of Ukrainians, who are going full Dukes of Hazzard-meets-Jackass in stolen Russian tanks.
Again, as with so many of the posts and videos scattered across social media like digital shrapnel from this war, it’s important to remain skeptical, especially when the material or its creators can’t be verified. That said, when it comes to amateur tankjackers going ya-ya in the mud in a stolen Russian tank, we can accept that this is clear propaganda while also celebrating the spirit of defiance it so perfectly captures.