Strange things have been happening in eastern Ukraine, a place swirling with rumors of imminent invasion by the "Little Green Men" (what the suspected Russian troops without insignia are being called).
A couple of British journalists and I were driving back to our hotel after a day of chasing news on the outskirts of Slovyansk when Boris, our intrepid taxi driver, pointed out the window and shouted, “Look at that!”
We, or at least I, ducked -- but then we looked. It was a large gray military-style helicopter. And something was falling out of the sky.
It was dropping leaflets, which fluttered toward the highway to Kramatorsk, then drifted in the spring breeze into a cow field and apple orchard.
Mission accomplished. A couple of locals pulled over, and so did we, to grab a handful out of the trees.
“Dear Peaceful Citizens of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk!” The leaflets read. “Here are your instructions on how to SURVIVE in the territories where Russian terrorists act.”
There was a black and white image of a masked man with a Kalashnikov and then what appears to be the Ukrainian Security Service version of a listicle. The first point:
1. “Don’t go close to the occupied buildings. You can become a human shield or hostage. It is a good picture for Russian media.”
Russian media are generally seen by the government in Kiev as instruments of the Russian state, especially President Vladimir Putin.
2. “Don’t listen to those who spout propaganda for federalization. They're being paid 1000 UAH per day.”
That would be about $80 a day, which is real money in eastern Ukraine, where in July 2013 the average monthly salary was 3901 UAH, or about $312 at today’s rates.
The instructions continue: They ask peace-loving citizens to inform law enforcement about suspicious people and groups of people carrying bags. They ask, please, don't join any self-defense groups: They're anti-Ukrainian.
Also: Avoid participating in mass rallies.
The leaflet warns that there are Russian GRU assets circulating in the crowds (GRU is Russia's military intelligence directorate) and that “they might liquidate those who criticize Russian politics.”
On that note, the instructions also warn the peaceful citizens to keep themselves and loved ones away from terrorists and anti-Ukrainian actions. Why? Because "all those who participate in anti-Ukrainian actions are potential victims.”
You can see the full leaflet below: