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Ukraine Protests To BBC Over Map Showing 'Russian Cities' In Crimea

Police attempt to disperse a rally in support of Aleksei Navalny in the Crimean city of Simferopol on January 23.
Police attempt to disperse a rally in support of Aleksei Navalny in the Crimean city of Simferopol on January 23.

Ukraine has protested against the BBC's inclusion of Moscow-annexed Crimean cities on a list of Russian cities where demonstrators rallied to support jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny.

The British broadcaster's Russian service published the map on January 23 as tens of thousands of people rallied across Russia, saying the demonstrations were held in 122 "Russian cities" including two major Crimean cities, Simferopol and Sevastopol.

The BBC marked the map with an explanation saying that "Russia annexed Crimea in 2014."

Despite the explanation, Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko called on the BBC's Russian service not to "promote Russian narratives."

"Sevastopol and Simferopol have never been Russian cities...International law matters," Nikolenko wrote on Twitter on January 24.

Moscow illegally annexed Crimea in early 2014 and weeks later threw its support behind pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's east, where some 13,200 people have been killed in an ongoing conflict.

Others also criticized the BBC for adding the two Crimean cities to the list of "Russian cities."

Refat Chubarov, the leader of the Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, the Mejlis, challenged the BBC on Facebook, asking whether its Russian service "wants to help Russia to annex Crimea."

A BBC representative did not comment on the map controversy.

Tens of thousands of protesters across Russia on January 23 demanded the release of Navalny, who was arrested six days earlier and sent to pretrial detention after returning to Russia following his recovery in Germany from poisoning by a military-grade nerve agent.

Police dispersed the protests, sometimes violently, detaining more than 3,700 people.

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