Billboard explains how Crimea referendum is being framed: Russia vs. the Nazis

March 10, 2014

With Crimea due to hold a referendum Sunday on potentially leaving Ukraine and joining Russia, the peninsula has, rather quickly, entered campaign season.

A number of those in the region have been sharing one particular striking campaign advertisement:

The billboard's text says "March 16, we choose ..." with a picture of Crimea covered by a Swastika and another of the region dominated by a Russian flag. Between the two pictures the text says "or." The implication doesn't really need to be spelled out.

While The Post's reporters in Crimea hadn't seen the advertisement themselves, they have spoken to others who have. It certainly seems to fit into the narrative of the referendum put forward by ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who have referred to the new government in Kiev as "nationalist fascist youngsters" and an "orgy of nationalists and extremists and anti-Semites" respectively.

The logic behind the narrative is twofold: First, to link the new Euromaidan government in Kiev with its more extreme elements, Svoboda or Pravy Sektor, who espouse a right-wing nationalist sentiment; and secondly, to link the situation in Crimea to Russia's achievements during World War II, something that has been a part of Putin's recent domestic strategy.

Of course, Yanukovych, Putin  and whoever put up that billboard aren't the only ones invoking Nazi Germany: Hillary Clinton has compared the Russian actions in Crimea to what Adolf Hitler did in the build-up to World War II.

UPDATE: More video showing the billboards:

Pro-Russia demonstrators interrupted Vitaliy Klitschko, the leader of Ukraine’s UDAR party, as he addressed a crowd of supporters in the northeastern Ukraine city of Kharkiv. (Ruptly.TV)
Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.
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