- The Washington Times - Friday, January 8, 2016

Coca-Cola has apologized to Ukraine after the soft-drink giant shared a map on social media that showed Crimea as part of Russia, seemingly accepting Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the peninsula which has largely gone unrecognized in the West.

The group director of Coke’s D.C. office visited the Ukrainian Embassy on Wednesday to hand-deliver a letter from the company’s vice president, Clyde C. Tuggle, retracting a posting that had prompted calls for boycotts earlier in the week.

“I can only apologize for this as it simply should never have happened,” he said in the letter.

Coca-Cola first came under fire following a Dec. 30 posting on VKontakte, Russia’s leading social media service, which showed a map of the country alongside the message, “Celebrate winter holidays from Moscow to Vladivostok.” Neither Crimea, Kaliningrad or the Kurile Islands were apparent on the illustration, however, leaving Russian nationalists to call for a new map with the contested territories included.

Coke conceded, and in a followup said, “Dear community members, we sincerely apologize for this situation! The map has been corrected! We hope you will understand.”

While the company may have pleased Russian nationalists who recognize those areas as Kremlin-controlled, the Ukrainian Embassy in D.C. responded Tuesday by taking the issue up with both Coca-Cola and the Department of State.

“The Embassy emphasized that Coca-Cola’s actions violate the official U.S. position condemning Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea,” read a letter from the diplomats in which they “urged the company to immediately correct the mistake” amid calls across the Internet for a Ukrainian boycott on Coke products.

Coca-Cola deleted the second map the following day and then deployed a member of their D.C. office to the embassy to apologize.

“We, as an international company, do not take political positions unrelated to our business, and we apologize for the controversial post, which we have removed,” Coca-Cola spokeswoman Anne Moore told Bloomberg.

In his letter to the embassy, Mr. Tuggle said that “the revisions to the map were done by an outside agency without our knowledge or approval.”

“It is not, and has never been, our policy to engage in the affairs of state in any of the more than 200 countries and territories where we operate,” he wrote. “Our mission is to refresh the world and spread optimism.”

Russia annexed Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula previously under Soviet control, in March 2014, and the United Nations has since adopted a nonbinding resolution in which member states are asked not to recognize the recent land grab. The Kuril Islands and Kaliningrad were both seized by Russia during World War II.

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