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Online dating ads offering to meet 'lonely' Ukrainian women banned in UK

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By Matthew Holroyd
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Multiple online dating ads deemed as offensive to Ukrainians have been removed in the UK
Multiple online dating ads deemed as offensive to Ukrainians have been removed in the UK   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

Online dating adverts that offered people the chance to meet "lonely" Ukrainian women have been banned by the UK advertising watchdog.

These ads were found to have caused "serious offence" amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Social media users in the UK had complained when they came across the online ads in May on local newspaper websites.

The adverts featured an image of a woman on a balcony and the misspelt caption “Ukranian [sic] Women. Meet Thousands of Lonely Ukrainian Women. Forget About Loneliness. Let Yourself be Happy”.

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said on Wednesday that it had banned the ads, which were run by a company known as SofiaDate.

The watchdog said in a statement that the ads highlighted the women's vulnerability and linked this to their sex appeal. 

"ASA understood that due to the ongoing war in Ukraine there was heightened sensitivity about references to the country, and the vulnerability of Ukrainian women had become an area of public concern." 

"We considered that the women depicted in the ads were shown in a way that was, at least partly, designed to titillate readers," the watchdog added, referring to the women's clothing in the ads.

These ads appeared soon after the UK government had launched its “Homes for Ukraine” scheme to help house refugees fleeing the Russian invasion. 

"The scheme had raised valid concerns about the safety and wellbeing of single Ukrainian women who were involved in it," ASA concluded.

Astrasoft Projects, trading as SofiaDate, said it had removed the ads.

The owner of the local news websites initially claimed that adverts were "ostensibly conventional dating ads" which did not refer to the Ukraine war or offend Ukrainian citizens.

But the group has since acknowledged that the ads may violate their ad policies against prostitution and trafficking, and have since also removed them.