Coca-Cola’s Happy New Year upsets Russians and Ukrainians alike
KIEV, Ukraine — All Coca-Cola wanted to do was to wish consumers a Happy New Year, but instead it ended up stirring anger in two markets, Russia and Ukraine, over the disputed territory of Crimea.
The Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula was annexed by Moscow in March 2014 and remains a trigger issue in the Russian-Ukrainian crisis today.
In a New Year’s message on VK, the most popular Russian social media network, Coca-Cola published a map of Russia that did not include Crimea.
Faced with barrage of criticism from Russian VK users, it published the map again on Tuesday — this time with Crimea — and apologized.
For good measure, the new map also included the Kuril Islands, the western Pacific archipelago that Moscow seized in 1945 from Japan, which still claims it.
The second version also included Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave situated between Poland and Lithuania, that is globally recognized as belonging to Moscow.
But by including Crimea, Coca-Cola unleashed a firestorm in Ukraine, where demands for a boycott of the popular soda got underway.
The corporation threw in the towel later on Tuesday and simply axed the New Year’s message.
“Dear friends! Thank you for your attention. It has been decided to delete the item which caused the upset,” Coca-Cola’s Ukrainian subsidiary said on Facebook.
Relations between Russia and Ukraine plunged after pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich was ousted by pro-European demonstrators in February 2014.
Moscow responded by annexing Crimea while pro-Russian rebels seized control over parts of eastern Ukraine, beginning a conflict that has left more than 9,000 dead since April 2014.
Late Tuesday Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia issued a statement apologizing for the issue but blaming an outside agency.
“The Coca-Cola Russia team had a stylized map of Russia created as part of its Christmas campaign. The agency that created the map later made changes without our knowledge or approval,” the company said.
“We, as a company, do not take political positions unrelated to our business, and we apologize for the post, which we have removed.”
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