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 users of VK, it published the map again on Tuesday, this time including Crimea, and apologised. The new map also included the Kuril Islands, the western Pacific archipelago that Moscow seized in 1945 from Japan.
But by including Crimea, Coca-Cola unleashed a firestorm in Ukraine, where demands for a boycott of the soft drink got under way. On Tuesday, the corporation threw in the towel and simply dropped 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.
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."