Ukrainian War: St Javelin and the missile that became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance

For believers, Mary Magdalene is an icon of redemption; the embodiment of the mantra that no matter how low you fall, there’s always hope for a second chance. For the Ukrainian people, a reimagined image of them carrying a particular weapon has become a powerful symbol of resistance.

Having started as a meme, St Javelin of Ukraine, as she is now known, is becoming an increasingly familiar sight on social media and elsewhere.

In its most recent version, the halo surrounding its head is not the radiant gold one would expect from centuries of religious iconography, but rather the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. Her flowing dresses are green, reminiscent of army khaki fatigues. Rather than joining in the prayer, his hands instead hold an FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile launcher.

The US-made, shoulder-fired weapon is widely seen as essential to Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s ongoing invasion – and has been taken to the hearts of fearful Ukrainians trapped in the inside the beleaguered country and the Diaspora which looks in horror beyond its borders.

Among the latter is Christian Borys, a Ukrainian-Canadian marketer and former journalist who worked in Ukraine from 2014 to 2018. He first adopted the original meme after first seeing it ages ago. months as geopolitical tensions simmered.

“A friend of mine who works in the Ukrainian defense industry told me that he made stickers from this meme and sent them to friends across Europe and it was just a symbol of support for Ukraine,” he told Euronews Next.

“Because everyone knew Ukraine was left in the dark.”

When it became clear that hostilities were imminent, the germ of an idea sprung up.

“I just wanted to have the stickers myself,” Borys said. “I wanted to put them on my car. I wanted to give them to friends. I wanted to use them to raise some money. You know, if I make some stickers, I can make some money and put it to Ukraine”.

And raising money he did.

Setting up a fundraising store called St Javelin a week before the invasion, Borys has so far raised over $400,000 (€358,000) for Help us Help, a Ukrainian charity registered in Canada, in selling articles with the effigy of the saint.

“Although I’m no longer a journalist…I was still following everything and I was still friends with people whose job it is to follow these things, so they were sounding the alarm in October, November, December,” he said. -he declares.

“I started it last Wednesday and it was because it was increasingly clear that an attack was imminent.”

Printing just 100 stickers of the missile-carrying idol, the operation grew rapidly after the revamped meme was shared in stories on the campaign’s Instagram account, selling out in its first 24 hours. A new run of 1,000 stickers sold out just as quickly.

“Why the Javelin [sticker] so popular?” Borys asked. “It’s just a symbol of support, honestly. I really thought that pissed people off, looking for ways to support Ukraine.

“Russia has completely destroyed its reputation with this. It is [Putin] really caused irreversible damage to Russia and to the Russian reputation. And I think a lot of what you’re seeing now is that people really, sincerely understand that what Russia did was a totally unprovoked and unwarranted action.

“They [people buying the stickers] I just want to help Ukraine as much as possible. It’s like watching a child get beaten up by a bully. And you say, ‘no, I want to help this person as much as I can.

The Javelin missile: Ukraine’s best hope?

The most prominent feature of the sticker design is the Javelin missile launcher itself. So why is it so important and why has it captured the imagination of beleaguered audiences?

Far from being a miracle weapon, the javelin is nevertheless hailed by many Ukrainians as an invaluable tool for defenders slowing the advance of Russian ground forces further into its territory.

Deployed for 20 years in the US military and 20 allied countries, the Ukrainian army now has more Javelin missiles than some NATO members, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Monday during a meeting of the Russian Security Council.

The United States provided Ukraine with 300 missiles at the end of January, after sending 180 projectiles and 30 additional launchers in October 2021.

On Saturday, President Joe Biden announced an additional $350 million (€310 million) in military aid to Ukrainians, including more Javelins.

“Javelin is probably quite effective against most Russian armored vehicles, and it’s probably more capable against heavy armor (like tanks) than any other missile system available in Ukraine that can be carried by an individual soldier,” Scott said. Boston, senior defense analyst. at RAND Corporation, told Euronews Next.

“The Javelin warhead is excellent and the missile can be tuned to fly in a dive attack profile so that it hits the least well protected roof of the target vehicle. The missile is guided and locked onto a specific target by the shooter, so even if the target moves, Javelin has a chance to hit it”.

Perhaps its most useful feature is its shoot-and-forget system, which means soldiers using it can aim and shoot before running for cover, unlike traditional anti-tank guided weapons. It also has a range of up to 4 km, giving infantrymen an advantage over fast armored vehicles.

The weapon’s effectiveness is, however, limited by various factors, including topological and geographical constraints. Much of central and eastern Ukraine is flat, so there are few options to conceal its use.

Another is that it is an infantry weapon to be used with “a combined arms team that includes tanks, other armored vehicles, artillery and aircraft,” Boston added.

It is also expensive equipment costing $80,000 (€71,000), making its long-term widespread use cost-prohibitive.

“The javelin is very, very expensive for an infantry weapon,” Boston said. “It’s not really a problem for Ukraine because they got theirs for free, of course, but that means they were never going to get as many as they wanted. They’re helpful for many of you therefore have to be selective in the targets against which you use them”.

The importance of anti-tank weapons in the war – which has so far been the scene of intense fighting in major urban centers in Ukraine where residents have been sheltered in underground stations and basements – has been further underlined by donations of javelins and similar weapons from foreign countries, including NATO members.

Germany, for example, announced in a surprise foreign policy U-turn on Saturday that it would send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles to Ukraine. Chancellor Olaf Scholz followed that up on Sunday by further announcing that Germany would permanently increase defense spending above the NATO-required threshold of 2% of GDP.

“Another significant weapon supplied to Ukraine in the weeks leading up to the invasion was the NLAW (Next Generation Antitank Weapon), sent by the UK,” Boston said.

“It was an inspired choice, in my opinion.

“The weapon is easy to use and can obviously be fired from inside buildings. It also seems to have been sent in much higher numbers, which makes sense as it’s a less complex system, as well as a range shorter than Javelin”.

James V. Hayes