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THE ART OF MISDIRECTION

Ukrainians are messing with highway signs to confuse Russian troops

Traffic sign is seen on a highway near Kyiv
Reuters/Carlos Barria
No way.
  • Anne Quito
By Anne Quito

Design and architecture reporter

Published Last updated

Ukravtodor, the state agency in charge of Ukraine’s highways and road signs, is playing a tactical role in slowing down invading Russian troops. In a string of social media appeals, the group has called on Ukrainian citizens to remove highway signs and mess with markings left for the Russian Armed Forces.

The Ukrainian government believes that these street tags—painted crosses, squares and circles that have recently popped up on roads, pillars, and buildings throughout the country—are meant to indicate targets for the Russian military. Ukravtodor asked citizens to report tags to the “Stop Russian War” or the Ukraine Avenger chatbots on Telegram. They’ve also encouraged Ukrainians to get scrappy and destroy, remove, or cover such markings.

On Facebook, Ukravtodor published a list titled “How to Fight Russian Occupiers: Instructions” (translated from Ukrainian) with guidance on how to spot and report the symbols.

Ukravtodor also showcased new no entry signage with Russian president Vladimir Putin’s face. “The sign speaks to the enemy: surrender immediately or meet death.”

Ukravtodor / Facebook
New highway signage unveiled on Ukravtodor’s Facebook page.

“The occupant must understand that he is not welcome here and will encounter resistance on every street, every road,” the agency emphasized. “Let them be afraid to even look in the direction of our cities!”

Doctored photo as call to arms

Ukravtodor’s advertised its campaign via a widely-shared doctored image showing a highway sign with the city names replaced with, “Go fuck yourself,” “Go fuck yourself again” and “Go fuck yourself back in Russia,” Reuters reported. Taken from the defiant words of a Ukrainian soldier who was defending Snake Island last week, the expletive has become a battlecry throughout the country.

Ukravtodor / Facebook
A Photoshopped highway sign published on Ukravtodor’s Facebook page.

Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s minister of infrastructure, who oversees Ukravtodor, says his agency is coordinating with allies to block Russia. “We are doing our best so that Russian planes, trains, ships and trucks can no longer move through Europe,” he wrote on Facebook. “The only answer for the occupant from all European dispatchers should be “Go fuck yourself.”

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