It started as a joke, but a billboard sporting a Ukrainian babushka and her cat has gone viral and is seriously embarrassing the government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Two weeks ago the ad appeared on a billboard in the industrial town of Dniprodzerzhynsk, the heartland of political support for Yanukovych and his governing Party of Regions. Accompanying the picture of the old woman and her cat was the caption: "I learnt that my grandson voted for the Party of Regions, so I re-wrote my will to give my house to the cat."
The image was shared on Facebook and quickly went viral, before spawning a raft of copycat posters picking up on the cat theme. The cat in the ad has now become a symbol of ridicule of the administration.
The Dneprodzerzhinsk Online news portal, which broke the story, has identified Maksim Golosnoy as the creator of the original ad, a 30-year-old former head of the village council of Yelizavetovka in Dnipropetrovsk region, who is standing for election in October. An opposition politician, Golosnoy is the subject of a police investigation for the alleged theft of public funds, which he claims is politically motivated. He was formerly a member of the Party of Regions, but quit to stand as an independent in 2011.
As it turns out the old woman in the photo is actually a Russian, Anna Ivanovna Tretyakova, who lives in Russia's Kenozero region, near the border of Arkhangelsk Oblast and Karelia. She doesn't own a cat and has no connection to Ukraine. And the cat is actually American.
Ukrainians have been having a field day with the cat jokes, which don't show any sign of slowing up yet. The gaffe-prone Yanukovych has always made it easy to make fun of the administration. For example, during his failed presidential election bid in 2004 he became known as the "Proffesor" due to a spelling mistake he made on his official bio form.
The cat phenomena is now threatening to spill over into Russia after political analyst Dmytro Potekhin commented on the story on his Facebook page, dubbing the affair: "Pussy Cat Riot in Ukraine," in an allusion to the punk rock group members who were controversially jailed this month for singing a protest song in a Moscow cathedral.
See a collection of cat ads here.
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