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Did Ukraine Just Declare War With A Hashtag?

21st century diplomacy or social media fail?

Michael Cruickshank
Did Ukraine Just Declare War With A Hashtag?© 2018 Wikipedia Commons - Ліонкінг

This crisis in Eastern Ukraine, already a bloody conflict, has begun to spiral out of control in recent weeks. After Ukrainian Government forces began to rout pro-Russia ‘rebels’ in the east of the country, their patron, Russia, massively ramped up material support. With even this failing to halt their losses, the Russian Army has now begun sending regular troops into the country causing widespread international outrage.

In order to announce to the world that their country was undergoing a Russian invasion, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs turned to Twitter. It posted a tweet with the hashtag “#RussiainvadedUkraine”, with the rather immature sounding caption “RT PLZ” (“retweet please” for those not well-versed in Twitter-lingo). What made this all the more strange was that this was the first time which a Ukrainian government ministry had actually called the actions of Russia an “invasion”.

So did Ukraine admit to being in a war with Russia over Twitter? Surprisingly enough it might just have. As well as this, this hashtag campaign seems to have actually been successful in getting this message out to the wider world. Propelled by the large number of journalists and government figures that use Twitter, the hashtag managed to go viral in a matter of hours after it was first tweeted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition, #RussiainvadedUkraine even briefly trended globally on the massive social networking site.

This then resulted in a large number of journalists and politicians changing their tune on the conflict. In the days since, while the Russian invasion has seen no further progress, the Ukrainian side has won a major PR victory, as most major media networks are now following their line and referring to the conflict in terms of a unilateral invasion rather than a civil war within the country.  

Image: © 2014 Andrew Butko

Indeed this shows the power which Twitter has as a real time communication tool. Due to the constantly updating feed, and the ability to share (retweet) a message with a single click, Twitter is the perfect medium for disseminating high-profile time-sensitive messages. With this in mind it will be interesting to see how into the future social media gets given a greater priority (and indeed a greater level of scrutiny) when it comes to official government and diplomatic communications.


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