How social networks diplomacy keeps Crimea Ukrainian?

Author : Oleksiy Makeyev

Source :

Ukrainian diplomats, as well as ordinary readers focus their efforts on showing Crimean peninsula to the world as Ukrainian territory
23:26, 18 April 2017

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For three years already after every remembrance of Ukrainian Crimea, we must add painful for everyone wording: "temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation."

Since the beginning of armed aggression against Ukraine Russia has struggled to create an impression that the Crimean issue "is resolved definitively".

Of course, they still have no success. And will not have it. Even massive propaganda can’t give the Kremlin an opportunity to legitimize its own crimes and will never hide the illegality of the annexation. The world recognizes Russia as vicious violator of international law and the state-occupier, and the statement that Crimea belongs to Ukraine cannot be questioned by any civilized country of the world. And on the geographical and political maps of all countries Crimea is still Ukrainian.

Ukrainian diplomacy efforts gave the result. Even if it causes indignation of Russian diplomats (for instance, there was the case with Lavrov during Normandy format talks - in 2016).

However, sometimes we see mistakes.

I remember one day a delegation of one of our most important partners at the international event published a tweet in support of Ukraine. But ... someone from their social media command added in a tweet a map of Ukraine, on which Crimea was marked by a slightly different color.

Well, we noticed this and our delegation immediately went to colleagues - and they changed the tweet photo to correct.

But who can give a guarantee that in the conditional state X, in educational atlases for students Crimea is depicted as part of Ukraine? And are all diplomatic efforts enough to ensure that these mistakes would be found out in time and fixed?

Unfortunately, errors - albeit unconscious - sometimes occur. They may appear in tweet, and in book, and in advertising images ... Not all foreigners know an objective situation because Ukraine is too far from them, not all of them even heard of aggression, and Russia uses this situation.

So our Ukrainian diplomats representing the country abroad have an acute need to track all cases of incorrect depicting of Crimea.

But in the XXI century diplomacy is not limited to "traditional dimension." Social media affect the thought of millions. It became obvious that we should engage the public to keep track of incorrect designations of Crimea.

Especially for this purpose in winter 2016 Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched a #CrimeaMap project.

For us it was important to make the project as accessible and open as possible, because the signals should have come from all over the world - both from Ukrainian, and from foreigners.

We asked the activists to use their pages on Facebook and Twitter to attract the attention of domestic and foreign public to the facts of wrong designation of Crimea. And last but not least – we asked Ukrainian diplomats abroad to highlight the correction of errors, so that more ordinary foreigners heard: "Crimea - is Ukraine" and were aware of the illegal actions on the peninsula.

I confess wave, the community activity regarding the project idea was even bigger than we expected. Today we have a lot of successful cases of correcting designation of Crimea. This is undoubtedly a great achievement of our diplomats, active and caring community.

British victory

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One of the first examples of created project efficiency was the case with the Oxford University Press British publishing house, which issued the socio-economic atlas of the world in 2016, and showed the Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.

Embassy of Ukraine in the UK, revealing incident, sent a letter to the publishing house asked to correct the error.

Now the issue is resolved. Oxford University Press atlas reissued in a new version, which stated that under international law Crimea is the territory of Ukraine.

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The textbook also specified additional background information that the UN does not recognize Crimea as part of Russia's territory and most of the world, including Great Britain, condemned the illegal "referendum" took place in 2014 on the peninsula.

In addition, Oxford University Press published a message on its website, which stated that the publisher is ready to exchange textbook with errors on its updated version for free.

Polish support

Of course, for us it was particularly important tracking and correcting errors in our neighbors’ territory – in Poland.

In early 2016 the Embassy of Ukraine in Poland has asked the Polish publishing house "Studio PLAN", which owns the site, with a request to correct the error in their products. They published the political map of Europe, printed version of which depicted Crimea as Russian territory.

The reaction of the Polish publishing house director was instantaneous.

He appealed to the Ukrainian embassy with a letter, which said that he decided to stop selling the maps to correct them.

A similar situation occurred with the First step of integration Project of Polish company “Vox Humana", in the framework of which was published a book for children entitled "Childhood in different countries." In the section of Ukraine, publishers mistakenly posted a map, on which Crimea was showed as Russian territory.

Finally, the company on its official website posted refutation and apology. It promised to paste the correct map that confirms the territorial integrity of Ukraine within internationally recognized borders in all available copies of books.

The territory of Internet maps

A separate part of the project was left for online maps. Fixing incorrect designation Crimea in such cases has some difficulty, since for the online maps it sometimes matters from where you are viewing them.

For example, if you go to an online map from Russia, the Crimean peninsula is designated as Russian territory. But if the same map is viewed with Ukrainian ip-address, the situation changed: The Crimean peninsula is given as Ukrainian territory.

However, here we also have success. The daily German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost corrected the incorrect designation of Crimea on the interactive map "Migration atlas - where do Berliners come from?". After our diplomats appeal to the management of the newspaper, Crimean peninsula was marked as  "territory of Ukraine" with the specification "occupied by the Russian Federation."

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Help of the readers

Those Ukrainians who live in Germany helped us to learn about one of the last cases of incorrect image of Crimea.

Peninsula as part of Russia appeared on maps in the textbooks for learning German for immigrants developed by TELC (The European Language Certificates) organization commissioned by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

Our embassy in Germany quickly turned to TELC, and to the German Interior Ministry, to which the agency is subjected.  Publisher gave an explanation, and most importantly - decided to make a free replacement of the textbooks with a wrong map.

These examples - it is only a small part of the #CrimeaMap campaign victories in different parts of the world.

Sometimes errors occur in regional media, and sometimes – is associated with public resources or international corporations, trusted by many people around the world.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry is making its best to provide the truth to foreigners. The scope of work within a single project to prevent the spread of Russian propaganda in the issue of Crimea - is extremely large.

Therefore, we continue to encourage all people to get involved in the current #CrimeaMap project and inform Ukrainian diplomats on incorrect designation of Crimea on the maps.

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