Separatists Named Their Rocket ‘Cheburashka’ to Troll Ukraine
In 2015, an official mixed up his children's storybook characters
Donetsk separatists are showing off a new rocket launcher. On May 22, 2018, the news outlet Donetsk 24 affiliated with the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic revealed the 217-millimeter Cheburashka multiple-rocket launcher in action near the town of Avdiivka.
In the video, the launcher fires rockets which land — slowly — one after another in a wooded grove near a neighborhood marked with trenches and damaged buildings. In a statement, the DPR’s military said the shelling was in retaliation for the death of Oleg Mamieva, a separatist battalion commander killed in the area several days prior.
The Cheburashka is a new addition to the DPR’s arsenal in a low-boil war that has escalated in recent weeks. The rocket launcher is not a gift from Russia but something the DPR constructed itself through its “State-Innovation Company” and revealed during the breakaway statelet’s Victory Day parade on May 9.
The vehicles are relatively simple with the rockets mounted on KrAZ trucks, of which there are more than enough to go around, and the rockets were likely produced in part by Donetsk’s vital State Plant of Chemical Products.
The Cheburashka’s reported range is around three to five kilometers. The name is also a throwback to Soviet nostalgia after a children’s ape-like storybook character and star of a 1969 stop-motion film. There are psychological and propagandistic connotations to this name.
The Russian military also fields a thermobaric rocket launcher mounted on a T-72 tank chassis called the TOS-1A Buratino, named after Tolstoy’s adaptation of Pinocchio. Three years ago, a TOS-1A appeared in Eastern Ukraine according to international monitors — an embarrassing revelation of the Kremlin’s support for the separatists as the weapon was never previously exported to Ukraine.
However, at the time, Col. Andriy Lysenko — a Ukrainian defense ministry official — erroneously referred to the newly-arrived Buratino as a Cheburashka, mixing up the storybook characters. By naming the new, domestically-produced rocket launcher after the latter character, the DPR is trying to make a joke at Lysenko’s expense, as the separatists deny having ever received a Buratino.
In other words, trolling.