UPDATED: Skype’s Cringeworthy Christmas GIFs Offend Ukraine
5 January, 2018

Editor's Note: This article was posted on January 5. As of January 6, Skype appeared to have deleted the Facebook post.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but a holiday-themed advertisement by Skype has left many Ukrainians in a bad mood.

Starting this year, Ukraine is officially celebrating both Orthodox Christmas on January 7 and the Catholic or “Western” holiday on December 25. But the Christmas spirit can’t erase the fact that parts of the country’s east have been occupied by Russia-led separatists for nearly four years.

Skype, a popular messaging and video chat application owned by the Microsoft Corporation, appears to have missed the memo on that. On December 22, just in time for Christmas, the company decided to congratulate Ukraine with — wait for it — Russian-themed emojis.

Ukrainians were, understandably, not happy. 

Screenshots of the emojis

An ad for the emojis, which appeared on many Ukrainian Facebook newsfeeds under the “sponsored post” tag, features animated versions of Russian symbols like Saint Basil’s Cathedral on Moscow’s Red Square; a skiing matryoshka Russian nesting doll; a bear wearing an ushanka hat with a Soviet-style star logo and playing a Russian musical instrument known as a balalaika; and a Soviet version of Santa Claus – “Ded Moroz” – who has at times been controversial in Ukraine.

“Why do I see this [bullshit] in Ukraine?” Zoryan Kis, an activist with the Freedom House international human rights organization, wrote under the post. “I don't care about the Red square or [a] dancing matryoshka!”

“Maybe Skype doesn't know that Russia [is] against my country: making war and [killing] my people?!” another Facebook user, Svitlana Linnyk, wrote in the comment section. “And I think that it's not [a] good idea [to] propagate symbols of [the] aggressor for Ukrainians.”

Other comments expressed similar sentiments.

It is unclear how and why the ad appeared on the account. As of press time, there has not been any official reaction from Skype or Microsoft and the post has not been removed. Hromadske tried to reach out to Skype, but received an automated response suggesting we contact a Twitter account providing technical support for its clients instead.

The official Skype website says that the company runs tailored ads, and the comment section on the emoji post suggests it largely targeted users in Ukraine. But judging from the response, Skype appears to have missed the mark.

/By Maria Romanenko