President Volodymyr Zelensky has routinely ended his late-night wartime speeches by announcing the state awards for Ukrainian soldiers. On Sunday, he honored a hunter who may be the smallest in the country – a small dog named Patron.
Patron, whose name means “ammunition” in Ukrainian, helps track down Russian mines and explosives in the northeastern city of Chernihiv and serves as the mascot of the national emergency service.
The dog has found more than 200 explosives and learned pyrotechnics from its owner, Mykhailo Iliev of the Civil Protection Service, Mr. Zelensky.
The emergence of Patron may be another facet of Ukraine’s efforts to master the war narrative with viral messages — experts have said dramatic war stories are crucial parts of the country’s information strategy. A video of him donning his vest and clambering into a soldier’s lap has been seen hundreds of thousands of times on the Ukrainian SES Facebook page, where they have shared updates on Patron’s work.
A clip of the same footage was shared on Twitter an hour later by the Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications – a government agency created to counter Russian disinformation and whose aim is to “develop proactive stories” and “strengthen Ukraine’s image” – and gained nearly 900,000 views.
Patron is so adored in Ukraine and beyond that he takes various forms of fan art in his honor. He is loved by children and helps them understand safety rules in areas with mining threats, said Mr. Zelensky as he presented the award in Kiev, the capital. Educating residents about the dangers of mines has been an ongoing effort for officials in Chernihiv and other regions after reports that retreating Russian troops had left buried land mines and jury-rigged bombs over large parts of the country.
In addition to receiving a state award on Sunday, Patron also met Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who made an unannounced visit to the country and patted his pockets during the ceremony in an apparent effort to find treats. The dog was “extremely pleased to meet a true friend of Ukraine,” the SES reported, “although Mr. Trudeau did not find a piece of the patron saint’s favorite cheese.”