How Ukraine is winning the meme war – EURACTIV.com

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In this week’s edition: Ukraine’s Black Sea woes, the post-EUCO hangover and the Kazakh referendum.


The Saint Javelin memewhich depicts the Virgin Mary holding a Javelin anti-tank missile, has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance and an unlikely source of funding.

EURACTIV spoke to Christian Borys, a Canadian journalist turned entrepreneur who decided to turn the meme into a charity brand to help raise funds for the country’s reconstruction.

“It may seem strange to have memes during war, but in 2022 they are the most effective way to communicate and boost morale,” Borys said.

“The Russians were incredibly good at their propaganda in 2014 and 2015, and Ukraine didn’t know how to counter it – now it’s completely reversed,” he added, speaking on the sidelines of the GLOBSEC forum in Bratislava. .

Dozens of other jokes, memes, tweets and YouTube sketches have emerged ridiculing Russian President Vladimir Putin, praising Ukraine’s military and criticizing NATO and the EU for not providing enough aid.

Images such as Ukrainian tractors towing a broken down Russian tank not only helped fight Russian disinformation, but also supported Ukrainian charities and even the military.

When Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, the invasion received far less attention in the West. Yet Ukraine’s overwhelming public image, bolstered by local memes and branding, turned the tide of the war, Borys said.

Immortalized as a giant mural of a gun-toting saint painted on a building in Kyiv, printed on stickers, affixed to clothing and posted all over social media, Borys never thought his “Saint Revamped Javelin” would become so popular. Even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sported a T-shirt with the image and mentioned it in his 100 Days of War video.

The former journalist, who has Ukrainian roots and spent between 2014 and 2018 covering the war in eastern Ukraine, initially wanted to use the cartoon to sell around $10 worth of stickers and raise money for works charities.

“The sticker was a stroke of luck. I thought if I hit $500 it would be amazing,” Borys recalls. Raising $1,000 after two days, he has now reached $2 million.

In addition to donating money to Ukrainian charities such as Help uswhich has branched out into various types of assistance and provides protective gear to journalists covering the war, Borys plans to turn the project into a social enterprise.

All production is expected to take place in Ukraine in the coming months in an effort to help rebuild the country.

“My hope, my goal, my dream is that we can take it and turn it into a Patagonia-type company, but Made in Ukraine: Patagonia’s mission is “We are in business to save the environment”our mission statement is now “We are in business to rebuild Ukraine”“Borys said.

Crowdfunding has become one of the success stories of this war.

In recent days, hundreds of Lithuanians have contributed to buy a drone for Ukraine as a show of solidarity in its war against Russia, which also ruled Lithuania. In the end, a total of 5.9 million euros was raised in just five and a half days. But in the end, the manufacturer decided to give it to Ukraine for free.

Initially Borys said he did not expect the West to back Ukraine the way it has.

“I was shocked when Western and European countries started sending arms and shocked when deeply pacifist countries like Germany said they were going to fundamentally change their position – it was shocking for everyone,” Borys said.

“In reality, we were all expecting so little that we were pleasantly surprised by countries doing the bare minimum. There is still a lot to do,” he added.

However, despite the overwhelming support globally, Borys said he was already seeing fatigue setting in among ordinary people.

“Of course, governments have to lead the way. Citizens cannot fund the reconstruction of a nation that has been so brutally destroyed,” he said. “But we can do our part.”


UKRAINE LAST

  • A third-party security guarantor could help unblock Ukraine’s grain exports. A number of European countries have stepped up efforts to reopen shipping corridors to transport Ukrainian grain, possibly with the help of a third-party security guarantor, but it is unclear whether Russia would agree to a deal.
  • European liberals support Zelenskyy’s party membership. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy got a boost for his EU aspirations after his party was approved as a member of the European Liberal Party this week.
  • The EU is stepping up its efforts to demystify Putin’s food security propaganda. The EU is planning an offensive to counter Russian narratives that Western sanctions are blamed for disrupting global grain and fertilizer supplies, EURACTIV.com has learned.
  • Pyrrhic victory for Hungary as EU approves sixth sanctions package. After several weeks of drawn-out negotiations mostly stalled by Hungary, EU leaders reached a political compromise to ban Russian oil imports by sea by the end of the year, but fell short of a complete embargo. But there was still a row with Budapest over the removal of Russian Orthodox leader Patriarch Kirill from the EU sanctions list. EU leaders also agreed to support Ukraine financially, but postponed details.
  • 500 Ukrainian patients transferred to hospitals across Europe. Ukrainian patients have been transferred from Ukraine, Moldova and neighboring EU member states to hospitals across Europe, so that they can receive continued treatment or emergency medical aid.

THE EU IN THE WORLD

EUCO HANGOVER | After their summit and latest spat with Hungary, EU leaders have in recent days downplayed prospects of securing a ban on Russian gas in an upcoming round of sanctions, after battling to secure a watered-down embargo on key exports oil from Moscow. Anyone already considering a seventh sanctions package before the summer is an optimist, EU diplomats say.

Speaking to EURACTIV after the summit, Poland’s former foreign minister and currently top lawmaker in the European Parliament, Witold Waszczykowski, gave a less than optimistic account and called on those hesitant to help Ukraine.

WAGNER’S DEFEAT | The European Court of Justice this week condemned the attempt by the financier of the Russian mercenary company, the Wagner Group, to be removed from an EU sanctions list.

DAM SUPPORT | The Egyptian president called on the EU to support his country’s stance on the “existential” Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam as the two sides seek to intensify their political and economic relations amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

EURASIA SUMMARY

REFERENDUM DAY | A set of constitutional amendments are expected to be approved by referendum in Kazakhstan this weekend. The proposed constitutional changes, five months after the biggest unrest in the country’s modern history, could accelerate the country’s president’s efforts to push for controlled political reforms. Read our special report from Nursultan here.


WHAT ELSE WE READ

ON OUR RADAR FOR THE NEXT DAYS…

  • Kazakhstan votes in referendum to change constitution
    | Sunday, June 5, 2022 | Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
  • US media in Moscow summoned to Foreign Ministry meeting
    | Monday, June 6, 2022 | Moscow, Russia
  • Plenary session of the European Parliament
    | Mon-Thu, June 6-9, 2022 | Strasbourg, France
  • UN-Water Process Conference
    | Mon-Thu, June 6-9 | Dushanbe, Tajikistan
  • Summit of the Americas
    | Mon-Fri, June 6-10, 2022 | Los Angeles, United States
  • Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine addresses the European Parliament
    | Wednesday, June 8, 2022 | Strasbourg, France
  • NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg meets Chancellor Scholz
    | Thursday, June 9, 2022 | Berlin, Germany
  • Shangri-La Dialogue Security Summit
    | Friday, June 10, 2022 | Singapore
  • Bucharest Nine Summit
    | Friday, June 10, 2022 | Bucharest, Romania
  • Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)
    | Friday, June 10, 2022 | Yerevan, Armenia
  • The European Court of Justice hears the case of the Russian public television channel RT France concerning the suspension of broadcasting in Europe
    | Friday, June 10, 2022 | Luxemburg

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[Edited by Alice Taylor]