How Ukraine’s social media game is on point

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The Ukraine war has been raging for over eight months. While Russian forces continue to advance elsewhere, Ukrainian counteroffensives are still making progress.

On the internet, however, it’s a fairly one-sided conversation.

“This is a meme nation,” says Olena, a Kyiv entrepreneur who manages teams of social media volunteers.

“If this was a war of memes, we would be winning.”

Her real name is not Olena. She has requested anonymity because of the delicate nature of the work she and her colleagues perform for the Ukrainian defence ministry.

Her teams are always working, responding within hours to news from all around the nation, and creating snappy videos, frequently set to music, for the ministry’s viewers both domestically and overseas.

Olena’s five-person international team focuses their messaging in the same way that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky customises addresses for foreign parliaments to take into consideration regional history, culture, and sensibilities.

A June video honouring Britain for its military support featured scenes of Shakespeare, David Bowie, Lewis Hamilton, and a montage of British-supplied anti-tank weapons in action, together with music by Gustav Holst and The Clash.

More recently, a video with the message “Romantic gestures take many forms” was released in response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to give Caesar self-propelled guns.

Perhaps inevitable, the images of red flowers, chocolates, the Paris skyline, and then the sound of guns were set to Serge acquiresbourg and Jane Birkin’s frantic Je T’aime Moi Non Plus.

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The team’s efforts have resulted in 1.5 million followers worldwide for the defence ministry’s Twitter account. More than a million people have watched some of the videos, as reported by the BBC. 

Their most popular video, which was posted in August following many unexplained attacks on Russian targets in the annexation of Crimea, has amassed 2.2 million views. It was set to the Bananarama song mean Summer and made fun of Russians for visiting the peninsula for vacation.

The squad has no shortage of material because social media is awash with footage showing Russian military failures. However, they have discovered what works and what doesn’t by trial and error.

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