The American Embassy in Ukraine was accused Tuesday of inadvertently backing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that Ukraine is an “integral part” of Russia after attempting to clap back with an ill-chosen meme.
On Tuesday morning, the embassy’s official Twitter account shared an image that purported to include four depictions of Kyiv and Moscow in the years 996, 1011, 1070, and 1108.
The images of Kyiv showed Desyatynna Church, St. Sophia’s Cathedral, Vydubychi Monastery and St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery. The corresponding depictions of Moscow showed only woods – a reference to the Russian capital’s founding in 1147.
The tweet was an attempt to respond to Putin’s remarks Monday night about his view of Ukraine’s place in Russian history.
“Ukraine for us is not just a neighboring country. It is an integral part of our own history, culture, spiritual space,” Putin said. “These are our comrades, relatives, among whom are not only colleagues, friends, former colleagues, but also relatives, people connected with us by blood, family ties.”
Putin went on to claim that “modern Ukraine was entirely and fully created by Russia,” specifically “Bolshevik, communist Russia,” and accused former Soviet tyrants Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin of laying the groundwork for Ukraine to declare independence following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
While many social media users praised the embassy’s dig at Putin, others saw it as confirmation of the Russian leader’s worldview.
“Isn’t this a restatement of Putin’s own talking point?” tweeted author and podcaster Josh Barro.
“Doesn’t this bolster Russia’s claim that modern-day Ukraine is the cradle and seat of Holy Rus?” asked American Conservative Magazine Contributing Editor Sohrab Ahmari.
“So the US state department is abandoning its core functions in Kyiv of serving the American nationals living there, and retreating to Poland to do memes that will, ironically, confirm in Russian minds that [Kyiv] is the cradle of their civilization. Well done,” National Review writer Michael Brendan Dougherty tweeted.
Freelance journalist and historian David Perry noted that while the embassy tweet was technically accurate, it still sent the wrong message.
“There is, indeed, an important medieval history around the early settlement of Kyiv, the post Mongol emergence of Moscow, and yet … I’m really not sure this appeal to medieval history from a diplomatic social media account is doing the work the embassy seems to think it’s doing,” he tweeted.
The meme also got the attention of Russian state-backed media.
“A) This is incredibly infantile. B) Actually only reinforces the Russian point that the city of Kiev is the cradle of their civilisation [sic]. C) has been posted from Poland, where the American embassy fled, while other Western states stayed in Ukraine,” wrote Bryan McDonald, head of the Russia desk at RT.com.
Putin’s remarks came as he recognized two separatist-held regions of Ukraine as independent states and dispatched “peacekeeping” forces to the area — stoking fears of a larger invasion.