Ukraine’s social media stars rethink how they wield their influence

A pedestal where a monument to Valery Chkalov, a famous Soviet test pilot, stood before it was taken down, in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 30. Ukrainian social media figures are increasingly using Ukrainian instead of Russian for their online content. [Laetitia Vancon/The New York Times]

KYIV, Ukraine - When Ukrainian social media influencer Anna Tsukur started building her business as a fitness guru several years ago, she made choices to maximize her appeal - focus on women, shoot in inspiring locations like Bali and, above all, speak in Russian.

That was then.

After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, she decided that as an influencer, her first task should be to try to influence people about the war, appealing to her Russian followers to protest their country's actions.

The result: a stream of insults from Russians insisting Ukraine was at fault.

Then she decided to ignore her own business model. She switched languages to teach in Ukrainian despite knowing that she would lose followers not just in Russia, but also in the countries that once made up the Soviet Union, where many people still speak Russian.

"I felt from my heart,"...

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