Political and economic sanctions may not have dissuaded Russia from annexing Crimea, but a group of Ukrainian women have called for a different kind of embargo: no sex for Russian men.
“Don’t give it to a Russian,” is the name of the campaign, which aims to throw cold water on Moscow’s appetite for Ukrainian territory and draw attention to its actions in Crimea.
“You need to fight the enemy in every way you can,” organizers urge fellow patriotic women on their website.
The campaign was launched on Facebook after Russia officially added the Black Sea peninsula to its map, brushing off international fury and fanning fears of further intervention in Russian-speaking parts of the former Soviet country.
But there is more to the campaign than stopping cross-cultural liaisons.
“We tried to make it provocative because it attracts attention,” admits Irena Karpa, a Ukrainian writer, blogger and musician.
“The deeper true meaning is do not give away your dignity, your freedom, your motherland. It is more about (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and his policies, it is not racist,” she said, acknowledging that ethnic Russians had taken part in the street revolt that ousted pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych in February.
The campaign was started by a group of “accomplished” women, said Karpa, including business owners, journalists and writers.
She said the phrase “don’t give it to a Russian” is a modern version of a line in one of the works of hugely popular Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko: “Fall in love, O dark-browed maidens, but not with the Moskaly (Russians).”
“We were inspired by our current situation, the annexation of Crimea, the huge appetite of Mr Putin, who is looking at our eastern border regions.”
The group’s Facebook page, which has garnered more than 2,300 likes, has swept the Internet and was also picked up by popular Russian newspapers.
‘More for us’
Some Russian men derided the plan, while others took offence.
“You shouldn’t ‘give it’ to people who are Soviet-style Putin supporters, not to all Russians. What do Russians have to do with this?… You yourself write this in Russian,” wrote Anton Grigoriev on the Facebook page.
On the Moscow website Lifewews.ru, known for its close links to Russia’s security agencies, a woman called Olga Silayeva wrote: “Don’t sleep with Russian men then, all the more for us.”
Organizers are also selling T-shirts with an image of two hands cupped together which, depending on how you look at it, resembles a prayer pose or a vagina.
“The money goes directly to buy supplies for our poorly financed army, Ukrainian women are trying to help our soldiers,” said Karpa.
The Ukrainian activists join a long line of women from Liberia, Kenya, Togo, Colombia and other countries who have in the past tried to use sex boycotts to sway men from the path of war.
The tradition dates all the way back to ancient Greece and Aristophanes’s play “Lysistrata”, in which women refuse to sleep with their men until they end the Peloponnesian war.
The bitter diplomatic crisis over Ukraine has highlighted the fractured identity of a country divided between Russian and Ukrainian speakers.
Karpa said she broke up with her last “imperialistic” Russian boyfriend after a quarrel over Moscow’s invasion of Georgia in 2008.