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How I displeased Maria Zakharova

July 12, 2023

Saadaval ka eesti keeles.

I had a fun weekend in Vilnius with my fellas.

This week, NATO Summit is happening in Vilnius. I was not invited there. The weekend before that, there was NAFO Summit at the same place. I was very much invited there, and took part.

As result of our collective fun and games over the weekend, both the spokesperson of russian imperialist barbarian federation ministry of foreign affairs Maria Zakharova and one of Team Navalny key figures Maria Pevchikh became so upset that they pronounced nonsense and attacks towards NAFO.

Zakharova whine

Pevchikh whine 1

Pevchikh whine 2

There is nothing interesting in the attack content – the usual russian vomit, “russophobia,” playing victim etc. Most interesting is that they did it at all, and moreover, with such similar content. This is a big accomplishment and a weekend well spent for NAFO, and myself personally.

What is NAFO?

NAFO is a collective of people around the world who counter russian lies and propaganda online, and donate and drive donations to Ukraine.

You can find many stories of NAFO in the press. This recent story in CNN is good and explains most of it, I won’t re-explain the basics here.

NAFO Vilnius Summit

A while ago, the idea emerged to organize a real-life NAFO gathering, and Vilnius right before the NATO summit turned out to be a suitable time and place. Over the weekend, about a hundred fellas gathered, and we had a great conference with an interesting program.

There was a public live stream from the talks. Watch the recording here. If you are into topics like information war and russian lies and propaganda, I can recommend it. What you see on the stage, and how people dress, talk and behave is an accurate representation of the NAFO character. The topics are serious, but we talk about them tongue-in-cheek, using jokes and absurd, not taking ourselves too seriously. Still, all remains tasteful and informed by our mission, which always guides all our work.

As expected, some russians were watching the live stream. This is where the events took an interesting turn. On the stage, you can see an inflatable shark with a bunch of other toys. These were never mentioned on stage and they were just silly props, where you can see references to several NAFO memes, for example “Crimea beach party.” You can of course interpret the shark as a reference to the accident with a tourist in Egypt if you want. What’s important to know is that these props never were mentioned in the discussions and we didn’t explicitly bring them up while at the venue.


russians saw the shark on stage in the video stream. They themselves decided to completely independently and freely to take the bait and get offended. They published a narrative that NAFO is inhumane because it brazenly and shamelessly in a public video stream laughs and cheers at the death of an innocent russian tourist in Egypt.

I was in the room the whole time. I can assure you that the only NAFO contribution to this narrative was placing an inflatable toy shark on the stage. All the rest is added and interpreted by russians.

Back when the shark incident happened, NAFO and Ukrainians spread many memes around it, with many topics like “even the sharks hate russians” and all. Some of them perhaps crossed the line of good taste (and this line is highly debatable in an environment of real and information war). I didn’t spread some of them, but I absolutely will not condemn the people who did. Dark humor helps Ukrainians during the war.

This was already a while ago. The toy shark on the stage brought all this back to russians, and both the government and Navalny banged the drum on this. The only thing that they accomplished, of course, is to point out once again that russians cry harder over one tourist than they do over many thousands of Ukrainians whom their own russian soldiers continue to kill, deport and gang rape every day.

Fotodega säuts

My own little contribution is at play here, which justifies the title of this post. All Sunday, we walked around Vilnius and did different activities, with this silly shark staying with us the whole time. On Sunday night, we participated at a rally to support Ukraine membership of NATO, and I happened to take and publish this photo with the shark there. It could as well have been someone else and there wasn’t much planning or thought around this. Just took and published a photo, that’s all. But the photo and russian reaction to the Sharkgate quite well summarizes the nature of NAFO, and the absurdity of russian narrative and crocodile tears. And is good study material to those who still think Navalny is anyone’s friend and savior.

Kaja Kallas and russian embassy

Some other events happened at the NAFO Summit which perhaps contributed to Zakharova’s angst.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis honored the summit with an address in person, and Kaja Kallas sent us a video greeting. This lent credibility to the event and of course upset russians. What silly events do these Baltic ministers go to, and who are they, anyway?

In her address, Kaja Kallas said these words:

“Behind every fella is a real person who believes in Ukraine’s victory.”

This was not the main point of the address, but it touched people’s hearts and took off. Fellas took this as an invitation to post their real photo next to their avatar. When you look at the stream of these photos, you see that NAFO is diverse. russian trolls of course like to lie that we are a bunch of losers in our parents’ basements. In reality, we are men, women, young old, from all countries and all walks of life. Search “behind every fella” from Twitter to see us. This is a powerful message when fighting with anonymous trolls, because the russian lie factory cannot respond with the same.

Also, we went to troll the russian embassy in Vilnius on Sunday. Well, “trolling” is doing a lot of work there. We just hung out for a little while and took some photos. But I bet the nerves in the embassy were tight before the NATO summit, and 50 people, many in Ukrainian gear, surely got their attention, and a report was sent to Moscow.

NAFO Vilnius

When I look back at the whole weekend and especially Zakharova’s and Pevchikh reactions, I can’t help but think, “if the russians are howling, we did it right.”

Fun and games aside, the war situation remains serious. Ukrainians continue to defend the freedom of Europe on the battlefield, and they need our help. Me and you cannot buy tanks and airplanes. What we can do is send vehicles, drones, medical equipment, and many other supplies that the defenders continue to need in large quantities.

There are may people in Ukraine, Europe and elsewhere in the world who organize the equipment and assistance projects all day, and very much need our contributions. Unfortunately we have had some scams and scandals where donations have not reached where needed. The full-scale war has lasted for over a year. It may seem that the Ukrainians are already winning, and we can afford to get tired and look away.

No, we can’t. russian invasion continues, and we cannot look away. Please donate to Ukraine and help them in any other way that you can.

Where to donate? My Twitter profile has some links to safe projects endorsed by Ukrainians. There are also local efforts in many countries, but I don’t know them all and don’t wish to unfairly showcase some while not mentioning others. There’s info in social and regular media. Please look it up, verify which ones are trustworthy, and continue to spread the word and donate.