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Coca-Cola Might Be Banned in Russia Over a Controversial Ad

Russian politicians are making it increasingly clear that food and drinks are the currency of politics.

Alex Swerdloff

Photo via Flickr user gregorfischer.photography

The day may very well come when the world's shadowy proxy wars will no longer be fought by overreaching intelligence agencies, but instead by global soft drink corporations. After all, nothing says "Taste the Feeling" quite like inserting your soda into the middle of a bloody geopolitical mire.

That is what Coca-Cola has indeed done—inadvertently inserted itself into the mess that is the conflict between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea, the disputed peninsula that juts into the Black Sea. And at least one Russian legislator is now trying to get Coke banned from Russia as a result.

It all comes down to the mega-corporation's desire to wish its customers a very Merry Christmas.

Seriously.

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An advertisement run by Coca-Cola on VK, the Russian social network site, unwisely used a map of Russia as its background. In the ad, Crimea did not appear to be part of Russia.

According to The Guardian, Russians got pissed and took to VK, aiming a barrage of criticism at Coca-Cola. What's more, a member of the Russian Parliament, Oleg Mikheyev, asked prosecutors to list the Coca-Cola company as an "undesirable organization." The classification would make it illegal for Russian citizens and companies to maintain any contacts with the corporation—or be heavily fined.

The contrite cola company quickly tried to right matters. It re-published the map, this time adding back not only Crimea, but also the Kuril Islands, a territory in the western Pacific that Moscow seized in 1945 from Japan, which still claims it is their territory.

All cool? Not really. The apology pissed off the people of Ukraine, and an equal-and-opposite shitstorm ensued.

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Coca-Cola got smart and declared they would be getting out of the map-based salutation business. "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.

But the Russian member of parliament is having none of it: "When first they published an ad showing Russia without one of its integral parts it could be considered a mistake. But when Coca-Cola started altering the map to meet some political demands the case gained a political background. Their actions caused a huge resonance in the community. They might have removed the map, but the fact remains a fact," Mikheyev told Izvestia Daily.

Russian politicians are making it increasingly clear that food and drinks are the currency of politics.