Russian tanks destroyed in the outskirts of Kyiv with Wolverines sprayed on the barrel (Picture: Piero Cruciatti/Alamy).

Wolverines: Ukrainian graffiti inspired by 80s film sprayed on wrecked Russian tanks

Russian tanks destroyed in the outskirts of Kyiv with Wolverines sprayed on the barrel (Picture: Piero Cruciatti/Alamy).

Ukrainian resistance fighters are scrawling the graffiti tag 'Wolverines' across burnt-out Russian military tanks and vehicles as a symbol of defiance in reference to a 1980s film starring Patrick Swayze in which US college students resist a Russian invasion of America.

In what is perhaps a counter to Russia’s Z symbol, which has emerged as a unifying symbol for pro-war supporters in Russia and which has appeared on many Russian tanks, the soldiers and fighters of Ukraine are marking their victories against Russian military firepower by spray-painting the Wolverines tag across many of the Russian vehicles that have been destroyed in combat.

Images of the graffiti are springing up across battlefields in Ukraine and being posted on social media, with the hashtags #wolverines and #reddawn in homage to the 1984 Cold War-era movie Red Dawn starring actors Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen.

The Wolverines title is thought to have been adopted by Ukrainian resistance in reference to the 80s anti-communist film after one group of civilian fighters, organised by Daniel Bilak, a Canadian-born lawyer with Ukrainian roots, set up in the weeks leading up to the Russian invasion and called themselves the Wolverines.

Bilak and his resistance fighters are said to have used the Wolverines title for their group after being inspired by the Red Dawn film.

Now, the graffiti has become such a powerful symbol of defiance against Russia’s invasion that the tag is springing up on battlefields across Ukraine.

Some supporters of Ukraine elsewhere around the world have even used the tag for T-shirt designs that are now selling on Amazon.

The plot of the film tells a fictional story of how the United States is invaded by the then Soviet Union, with Cuban and Nicaraguan allies, and with the threat of World War III looming, but how the invasion is then thwarted by a group of American high school students, led by student Jed, played by Swayze, who use guerrilla urban warfare tactics to resist the Russian occupation.

The students in the film name themselves Wolverines after the name of their college football team and high school mascot, and they leave graffiti tags after each of their victories in their hometown of the fictionalised version of Calumet, Colorado.

The film ends with scenes depicting how America won the battle, with the fictional occupation by Soviet and Cuban forces repelled.

Posts featuring the Wolverines tag include one on Twitter by journalist Nolan Peterson, a former USAF special operations pilot, which shows what appears to be a destroyed Russian T-72 tank in what he reports is near western Kyiv, with the tag sprayed on the barrel.

Other social media posts are showing how the Wolverines tag has been sprayed on burnt-out Russian tanks and vehicles, often with a reference to Red Dawn on the comment.

Many other posts are showing destroyed Russian miltary equipment with the Wolverines tag.

The Wolverines theme has inspired supporters of Ukraine around the world, with many wearing T-shirts with the emblem and design based on a scene from the Red Dawn film.