Chinese citizens – alongside other nationals – have been paying at least one Russian soldier to have their messages “drawn” onto artillery shells, though they might not have gotten what they paid for.

Ukraine’s 35th Separate Marine Brigade involved in the Kherson bridgehead operations published a series of photos on Wednesday, April 17, of simplified Chinese characters – alongside waifus (fictional female characters from non-live-action visual media) – drawn onto Russian artillery shells and alleged Chinese citizens’ support for the war in Ukraine.

Chinese messages on Russian artillery rounds

Source: Twitter/GrishaPutin

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In one instance, a Chinese message that read “Long live China-Russia friendship” could be seen drawn onto an artillery round.

Photo: Telegram/Ukraine’s 35th Separate Marine Brigade

In another photo published by the 35th Separate Marine Brigade, multiple mortar rounds with pro-Russian messages from China written in both Chinese and English could also be seen. The message on the bottom shell likely refers to two locations in China (QingShui County and Ermao village), though a Chinese-speaking staff member at Kyiv Post was unable to decipher its exact meaning alongside the top mortar round due to a lack of context.

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Also 31 cars, a supermarket, and some nearby residential buildings were reported damaged.

However, the use of simplified Chinese characters would also strongly suggest that the donors come from Mainland China as opposed to other Chinese-speaking regions.

Origins of the photos

Through Google reverse image searches, Kyiv Post is able to trace an earlier posting of the images – less than a day prior to the 35th brigade’s postings – to Bavovna, a Ukrainian Telegram, that said a pro-Russian account “on Twitter” has been publishing these images.

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Underneath another reverse image result, a Reddit post, is a user comment that said the service was provided by an X (formerly Twitter) user called GrishaPutin, a self-proclaimed Russian “humanitarian aid worker” wearing a military uniform, where Kyiv Post was able to locate what’s presumably the origin of the pictures.

Source: Twitter/GrishaPutin

In a pinned post published on Feb.13, GrishaPutin also provided a price list for the services: €30 for a drawing of an artillery shell, €15 for a mortar round drawing, and €200 for a video confirmation of the shell being fired.

Source: Twitter/GrishaPutin

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While this is not the first sighting of drawings on artillery shells from either Ukraine or Russia – as it has been a common practice for troops to raise funds by drawing messages from donors – further investigations on Chinese social media sites have shown that GrishaPutin has a history of photoshopping drawings onto the shells.

Discussions on Chinese social media and photoshop allegations

On March 10, a post on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of X, showed a series of photos depicting shells with drawings scribbled on them, this time with messages in other languages from other nations.

Kyiv Post is also able to trace some of the images to GrishaPutin’s account, though the origin and authenticity of some of the photos, including one that says “TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN 2024,” remains unclear. However, it’s worth noting that he did share images depicting similar messages before.

In the comment section, some Chinese users were quick to point out that multiple photos were depicting the same shell with different drawings, identified through the rust marks.

Photo: Weibo/长征后卫薛伯陵

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Some users suspected GrishaPutin of simply photoshopping the drawings onto the shells, while some said that since the cheaper services only covered the drawings – not firing – GrishaPutin might have simply drawn on the same shells after erasing the previous drawings. X user partizan_oleg also accused GrishaPutin of photoshopping images onto the shells and provided photo reference, to which the latter rejected the claims in the comments and provided a video of him drawing on the artillery shells.

However, another X user chimed in and said that based on error level analysis (ELA), GrishaPutin likely shared pictures of hand-drawn shells publicly while providing donors with photoshopped images in private.

As it stands, it is possible to ascertain that Chinese nationals – alongside other nationals with a pro-Russian stance – have more than likely paid GrishaPutin to have their messages scribbled onto the shells, though whether he actually drew all of them onto the shells is questionable.

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