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Ukraine's internet army of 'fellas' are using dog memes to fight Russian propaganda – and they've raised $1m for the army too – Sky News

They are NAFO – North Atlantic Fella Organisation – and they’re here to troll Russian politicians and raise money for Ukraine’s armed forces. Meet the fellas.
Foreign news reporter
Tuesday 24 January 2023 13:30, UK
It may be NATO sending missiles and tanks to Ukraine, but on social media an information war is being fought by a rowdy band of online comrades called NAFO. Meet the fellas.
NAFO – or the North Atlantic Fella Organisation – are on the front lines of a fight against Russian propaganda and have raised a million dollars for Ukraine’s armies on the real world battlefield.
They hound Russian officials on Twitter and ensure those who spout lies about the war are met with a horde of cartoon Shiba Inu dogs mocking them.
But beyond the jokes and memes, the “fellas” have raised huge sums to buy ammunition and vehicles for the Ukrainian resistance.
They’ve also helped keep the conflict under the global spotlight.
NAFO has grown from one Twitter user poking fun at the Russian military to a global phenomenon of thousands that counts senior politicians like UK defence secretary Ben Wallace and Estonia prime minister Kaja Kallas among its ranks.
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“I don’t like bullies, and it’s pretty plainly evil what the Russians have been doing for a very long time,” US Army veteran and current fella Pete told Sky News.
“I appreciate what the Ukrainians are doing militarily – doing more with less – and this has just been a nice outlet to try and help alleviate that in whatever way we can.”
Pete, who preferred not to give his last name, helps run the “forge” – a group of around 100 people working round the clock to make fresh Shiba Inu avatars – fellas – as a thank you to people who donate to Ukraine.
Twitter users post screenshots of their donations along with a #fellarequest with what they want their fella to be wearing and any items it should have and the forgers take it from there.
In a nod to his time in the military, Pete’s fella avatar holds an M249 SAW light machine gun. It also has glowing green eyes.
“I added the green glow around the twentieth time we were accused of being a CIA/NATO intel op. Figured it’d be funnier,” he says.
Over a $1m raised for Ukraine’s defence
Asked about the real-world impact of the fellas, Pete added: “We’ve helped units get life-saving equipment they otherwise might not have, be it body armour, drones, IFAKs and other first aid, or something as simple as active hearing protection.”
Much of the money raised by NAFO is donated to the Georgian Legion, a foreign volunteer unit that has been fighting in Ukraine since 2014.
Estimates vary about how much money has been raised by NAFO, but some put it at more than £860,000.
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‘You pronounced this nonsense. Not me’
The group are known for their combative exchanges with Russian officials, in particular diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov who broke a key rule of the internet by getting into an argument with someone making fun of him.
Mr Ulyanov had sought to blame Moscow’s invasion on Ukraine shelling civilians.
In response to a fella mocking him, he tweeted: “You pronounced this nonsense. Not me.”
Somewhat predictably, this became a slogan for NAFO and is available on T-shirts, with proceeds going to Ukraine.
“Basically, a very serious dignitary got into a fight with goofy looking dogs and lost as soon as he pressed send on his tweet,” NAFO founder Kamil told Sky News.
Asked about the group’s efforts to combat Russian propaganda, he replied: “Fellas just do what they think is right.”
NAFO slogans and fellas are appearing everywhere, including painted on a 2S7 Pion self-propelled gun which is in service in Ukraine.
It has been duly named “Super Bonker 9,000”.
The artillery vehicle was named via SignMyRocket – a crowdfunding website that lets people pay to have messages written on ammunition and equipment used by the Ukrainian armed forces.
NAFO ‘overwhelmingly a positive movement’
NAFO co-founder Matt Moores says the group “gives everyone globally with an interest and an internet connection a way to get involved”.
Speaking at a panel for the Centre for Strategic and International Studies earlier this month, he said NAFO is “overwhelmingly a positive movement”.
He added: “I guess the power of what we’re doing is that instead of trying to come in and point-for-point refute and argue about what’s true and what isn’t, it’s coming in and saying “hey, that’s dumb”.
“And then the moment somebody’s replying to a cartoon dog online, you’ve lost.”
While it is not a military alliance like its namesake NATO, NAFO fellas abide by one of the same core principles: Article 5.
When one member is threatened – or in the case of the fellas, spots some Russian propaganda on Twitter – they can tweet #article5 and other fellas will come to their aid.
Ben Wallace, defence secretary and MP… and a fella?
Praise for NAFO goes right to the very top, with world politicians thanking them for their contributions – and being immortalised in fella form.
Estonia’s prime minister Kaja Kallas, whose fella sports a yellow blazer and blue skirt, tweeted last month: “My greetings to #NAFOfellas – you’re doing a great job fighting bad takes and Russian propaganda, and raising funds for Ukraine’s defence.
“I salute you, #Fellas.”
UK defence secretary Ben Wallace has received the NAFO treatment too, pictured alongside his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov.
“A privilege! Onwards we go!,” he tweeted.
The fellas stress that NAFO expansion is non-negotiable. And with hundreds of #fellarequests coming in all the time, it doesn’t look like anyone can stop them.


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