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Ukrainian Comms Pros Launch ‘Crisis Media Center’ as Russian Offensive Proceeds

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On a compelling but somber note, a volunteer team of professionals from at least ten different firms has banded together in the form of the Ukraine Crisis Media Center in order to distribute messages from leaders friendly with protest movement Maidan, which sees itself as the legitimate government of Ukraine. This move comes as Russia continues its campaign to forcibly separate the Crimea region from the rest of the country in the wake of deposed president Viktor Yanukovych’s retreat.

Last weekend we posted on the social media battle for legitimacy currently raging between Putin’s Russia and post-Yanukovych Ukraine—and that messaging conflict will only intensify both leading up to and following the scheduled March 16 secession vote.

Yesterday PR Week UK noted the new group’s digital presence and its stated purpose: “to counter alleged Russian propaganda” from RT (Russia Today) and other government-run outlets.

Theirs is a separate organization from the existing Euromaidan PR, with an independent English-language website, YouTube page and presence on both Twitter and Facebook. The group formed over the past few days, establishing a headquarters in Kiev’s Hotel Ukraine with donations from George Soros’ pro-democracy group International Renaissance Foundation (and little or no assistance from the still-forming government).

Military actions aside, the communications crisis has been building for several weeks. In January, Maidan hired Porter Novelli‘s Russian wing to boost its image within the country, and the fact that the firm has also represented Putin’s United Russia party in the past hints at the complexity of the situation.

According to the Crisis Media Center’s own launch release, it will:

“…provide support to all the media who cover events in Ukraine” via “…objective information about events in Ukraine and threats to national security, particularly in the military, political, economic, energy and humanitarian spheres.”

Its Twitter feed, for example, shares line-by-line recounts of speeches by said figures while Facebook posts translate those statements into English, French and other languages.

The group also promises, according to Canada’s Globe and Mail, to help reporters “arrange interviews and trips for foreign journalists” to cities outside Kiev.

The center’s members have varied backgrounds; at least one worked “as a PR for an events company in the UK” while others come from Ukranian firms like PRP, a Weber Shandwick affiliate.

At a press conference earlier today amidst news that pro-Russian leaders have exerted control over independent media outlets in the Crimea region, a deputy speaker of the Ukranian parliament admitted that most expect the secession proposal to pass and that the situation will remain unstable for some time. He said:

“Today is just the beginning of a long diplomatic fight with Russia.”

It will also continue to be one of the world’s most important tests of the power of the communications discipline.

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