After a summer break from reporting on disinformation we are now back in business, and so are many of the regular disinformation mouthpieces.
The overwhelming majority of disinformation we have seen over the last two weeks is focused on that perennial target: Ukraine. We have seen several of the usual narratives: “Ukraine is not a state”, “Ukraine is abandoned by Europe”, “there is no Ukrainian independence”. But the most repeated piece of disinformation was the old favourite linking Nazis and Ukraine. So, the country was accused of being a neo-Nazi monster created by the West, as well as being occupied by Nazis who follow in the footsteps of Goebbels. There was no specific mention of the actual occupation of parts of Ukraine (see page 35 in the study).
German Foreign Minister Gabriel was also targeted by disinformation outlets, as he congratulated Ukraine on its independence day by using the words “Slava Ukraini” – meaning “Glory to Ukraine” – on Twitter. These words were quickly reported as a supposedly “well-known” Nazi slogan from the Second World War, in another case of inventive historical revisionism. In fact, the term Slava Ukraini has been used at least since 1919, and it became popular again in Ukraine after the 2013-2014 Maidan protests.
Ukraine was also presented as a victim of the “Evil West” in some outlets – another recurring disinformation theme. As we described thoroughly earlier this week, the infamous hacker group CyberBerkut (see page 39) claimed to have proof that Ukraine is merely a testing ground for secret US experiments. Of course, there was no proof presented of these alleged biological testing sites, a claim that we have seen several times before e.g here; and here.
Earlier this summer, the same story popped up in Armenia – as described in this report by the Union of Informed Citizens NGO. In a similar story, a Czech outlet claimed that an outbreak of measles in Ukraine was caused by US labs producing biological weapons.
Manipulation as a method
Both Georgian and Russian outlets published a supposed scoop this week – that the former chief of British intelligence service MI6 disclosed Western plans for Russia’s fragmentation in an interview with the Guardian newspaper.
This was manipulation, indeed. Not the plan referred to, revealed in an interview which in fact never happened and was never published by the Guardian. But the manipulation of using a stooge website to trick us into thinking that we were reading a genuine Guardian article. It is a trick we have written about before here and here, and it can be a very effective way of spreading disinformation, since it is more likely to get picked up by real media if it parades as real media.
This time, the damage seemed relatively easily averted, since the Guardian quickly debunked the story. And yet, a full five (!) days later, the fake article still made its way to Russian state TV. It was Vladimir Solovyov, the host of one of Russia’s most popular political talk shows, who referred to the article, claiming: “some say it’s true, some say it’s not”. In a classic method of pro-Kremlin disinformation, he later suggested that it was almost impossible to know what the truth is nowadays.
But it’s not. You just have to look at the facts – and want to.
Disinformation cases reported in the previous week
László Andor was the EU social affairs commissioner between 2010 and 2014, not in August 2017. http://ec.europa.eu/archives/commission_2010-2014/andor/index_en.htm
No evidence given.
According to the IBM Global Location Trends report for 2017, Moldova ranks sixth in the world in terms of the number of jobs created in 2016, taking into account population. The result of Moldova is largely due to the entry of some automotive companies in the market. https://www.mold-street.com/?go=news&n=6377
The EU is the most important trading partner for the Republic of Moldova. https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/moldova/1538/republic-moldova-and-eu_en
Around two thirds (66%) of Moldova's exports went to the EU in 2016, followed by Russia (12%) and Belarus (5%).
In 2016, the exports from the EU to the Republic of Moldova have decreased by 2%. Key EU exports are machinery and appliances, mineral products, transport equipment, and chemical products.
The economic analyst from "Expert-Grup", Vadim Gumene says in the report (published in April 2017) "Evolution of the Moldova-EU trade flows after 2 years of DCFTA implementation" that the import of agri-food products from the EU registers a decrease of 15% during the period from 2014 to 2016.
Distorted information. In order to increase military capabilities, Swedish Armed Forces will conduct Exercise Aurora 17. Approximately 19,000 soldiers and other authorities from Sweden are participating in the exercise, as well as troops from Lithuania, Norway, Poland, France, Denmark, Estonia and the United States. http://www.forsvarsmakten.se/en/activities/exercises/aurora-17/
In his interview with The Guardian, John Scarlett, former Chief of the UK Secret Intelligence Service MI6, allegedly disclosed a three-stage strategic plan of the United States and the Great Britain aimed at Russia’s fragmentation. John Scarlett claims that the first stage of the plan envisaged the deployment of military and intelligence bases around South Ossetia and involvement of security officers. The second stage envisaged bringing of radical Islamists to power in Chechnya, Dagestan, North Ossetia and Circassia. As for the third stage, it was planned to provoke a fake conflict in Ukraine, but Moscow managed to protect the country against this threat.
The article wasn't published by the Guardian, and the interview doesn't exist. The website that published the article replaced the "i" in Guardian with a Turkish ı, but otherwise looked similar to the original. The story was removed from the Internet and Facebook deleted posts that included links to it. Many Russian news outlets reported about the interview, among them Ren-TV, PolitOnLine.ru, EG.ru, Dni.ru. Many of them deleted the articles afterwards. Russian federal TV channel Rossiya 1 repeated the false information quoting the interview on debate show Evening With Vladimir Solovyov. https://noodleremover.news/fake-mi6-interview-22af3555107b Further debunking: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/aug/18/experts-sound-alarm-over-news-websites-fake-news-twins According to the BBC's Russian-language service, the English grammar errors in the fake article are similar to those that Russian-speakers make. http://www.bbc.com/russian/features-40901789
Further debunking: http://mythdetector.ge/en/myth/geworldge-and-sakinform-post-fake-interview-former-sis-chief
There is no evidence that this crime was committed by Muslims. (http://www.msn.com/fr-be/actualite/national/bertrix-une-voiture-fonce-sur-un-groupe-de-personnes-apr%C3%A8s-un-bal-de-village/ar-AAqnRhm?ocid=spartandhp)
According the UNICEF the epidemic was caused by low vaccination coverage. https://blogs.unicef.org/blog/sad-inevitability-of-measles-in-ukraine/
Further debunking: http://www.stopfake.org/fejk-ssha-prevrashhayut-ukrainu-v-biologicheskuyu-bombu/
The 9/11 conspiracy theory has been refuted several times – also by “9-11 Commission" conducted by the US legislators. https://9-11commission.gov/report/
The article wasn't published by the Guardian, and the interview doesn't exist. The website that published the article replaced the i in Guardian with a Turkish ı, but otherwise looked similar to the original. The story was removed from the internet and Facebook deleted posts including links to it. Many Russian news outlets reported about the interview, among them Ren-TV, PolitOnLine.ru, EG.ru, Dni.ru. Many of them deleted the articles afterwards. Russian federal TV channel Rossiya 1 repeated the false information quoting the interview on debate show Evening With Vladimir Solovyov. https://noodleremover.news/fake-mi6-interview-22af3555107b
Further debunking: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/aug/18/experts-sound-alarm-over-news-websites-fake-news-twins According to the BBC's Russian-language service, the English grammar errors in the fake article are similar to those that Russian-speakers make. http://www.bbc.com/russian/features-40901789
After the United States imposed new sanctions on Russia over its meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, President Vladimir Putin announced retaliatory steps, including an order that the U.S. reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia from 1,210 to 455 - a cut of 755 people, or around 60 percent of its diplomatic staff - by September 1. Further debunking: https://www.polygraph.info/a/russia-foreign-affairs-us-embassy-visa-suspention/28695215.html
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has stated that they can only attest to the destruction of the stockpiles of chemical weapons and precursors that were declared by the Syrian government. https://www.opcw.org/news/article/destruction-of-syrian-chemical-weapons-completed/, https://euvsdisinfo.eu/the-show-must-go-on/
There have been several questions whether Syria declared everything it possessed. Further debunking: https://www.polygraph.info/a/russia-syria-chemical-weapons-opcw/28694236.html. We have reported about this before https://euvsdisinfo.eu/the-show-must-go-on/.
No evidence given. The facilities in question are in fact civilian-type buildings for regular peacekeeping training under the United Nations mandate.
Further debunking: https://www.polygraph.info/a/rogozin-says-us-starts-training-saboteurs-in-moldova/28679916.html
There is no evidence supporting this theory.
According to the statement, resettlement concerns only people in need of international protection who are particularly vulnerable. https://www.bundesregierung.de/Content/DE/_Anlagen/2017/08/2017-08-28-statement-refugee-migration-english.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=1
More information on EU efforts to limit illegal migration to the EU can be found here: https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/31472/eu-migration-policy-delivering-results-thanks-partnership-approach-and-investment-sustainable_en and here http://www.elysee.fr/declarations/article/declaration-conjointe-missions-de-protection-en-vue-de-la-reinstallation-de-refugies-en-europe
This claim in not supported by any reliable source.
NATO exercise Noble Jump 17 was a logistical challenge that tested the ability of all the participants to deliver a fighting force to where it is needed. https://www.jfcnaples.nato.int/exercises/noble-jump
No evidence given. The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), entered into force on 1 September 2017. The EU is Ukraine's number one trading partner. Exports from Ukraine to the EU and Ukrainian imports from the EU both increased by about 25% in the first four months of 2017 compared to the same period the previous year.
The EU has pledged a €12.8 billion support package for the next few years to support the reform process. This includes €3.41 billion in loans as EU macro-financial assistance (MFA), of which €2.81 billion has already been provided. This is the largest amount of macro-financial assistance that the EU has disbursed to any non-EU country. On 24 November 2016, in Brussels, the European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič and the Energy Minister of Ukraine, Ihor Nasalyk, signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on a Strategic Energy Partnership between the EU and Ukraine. The new Memorandum of Understanding aims to stimulate energy cooperation between the EU and Ukraine. The European Commission, in close cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank, continues to support the modernisation of the Ukrainian gas transportation system, in line with the Joint Declaration made in March 2009.
In fact, the image shows Angela Merkel visiting a refugee camp in Turkey close to Syrian border in April 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2016/apr/23/angela-merkel-turkey-visit-refugee-camp-in-pictures
No evidence given. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control doesn't mention migration as cause for the outbreaks of Hepatitis A.
There is no evidence that depopulation would be linked to European integration. The share of the population aged 65 years and over is increasing in every EU Member State, EFTA country and candidate country. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Population_structure_and_ageing
Virtually every country in the world is experiencing growth in the number and proportion of older persons in their population. http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/ageing/WPA2015_Report.pdf
According to U.N. projections, Ukraine’s population will fall 22% by 2050. Eastern and Southern Europe are home to several important downsizing countries including Poland (off 14% by 2050), the Russian Federation (-10.4%), Italy (-5.5%) and Spain (-2.8%). The population of the EU is expected to peak by 2050 and then gradually decline. https://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotkin/2017/02/01/death-spiral-demographics-the-countries-shrinking-the-fastest/#61a8fc2ab83c
Georgia is a sovereign country. It's up to Russia, not US, to decide if Georgian citizens need a visa to enter to Russia. https://georgia.mid.ru/home
A 400-ton firefighter air plane does not exist. The photo published shows Ilyushin Il-76 TD with the maximum retardant capacity of 42 tons and the maximum take-off weight of 187 tons. Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus provided help with human resources to Georgia to fight the forest fire in Borjomi valley on August 20. Further debunking: http://mythdetector.ge/en/myth/arithmetic-propaganda-187-ton-russian-airplane-able-store-400-tons-water
The article uses several recurring pro-Kremlin narratives (Ukraine is not a state, it is a vassal of the US, it loses from the Association Agreement with the EU and is being robbed of its fertile black soil). An analysis conducted by Deutsche Welle (http://bit.ly/2eJPdLU) shows the deficiencies of the trading relationship with Russia for Ukraine; trade conflicts with Kyiv were common practice for the Kremlin well before the annexation of Crimea and the war in the Donbas.
The EU is Ukraine's number one trading partner. Exports from Ukraine to the EU and Ukrainian imports from the EU both increased by about 25% in the first four months of 2017 compared to the same period the previous year. https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/eu-ukraine_relations_factsheet.pdf
Ukraine is an independent state, whose independence has been recognized by the UN, therefore its territory is not "Russian land".
Ukraine is a sovereign state and its independence has been recognized by all the UN members including Russia.
No evidence given. There are no Nazis in the government or the Parliament of Ukraine. The far-right ‘Right Sector’ (often depicted as "fascists" or "Nazis" by pro-Kremlin outlets) gained only 1.8% of the votes, far short of the threshold needed to enter parliament. Ukraine's electorate clearly voted for unity and moderation, not separatism or extremism, and the composition of the parliament reflects that http://bit.ly/2dFFEdi
No evidence given. Ukraine is not governed by a junta. Democratic, competitive and generally well-organised presidential and parliamentary elections were held in 2014 and local elections in 2015. The EU welcomed this progress. The OSCE, which observed all these elections on the ground, characterised the Presidential elections (report http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/ukraine/119078?download=true) as showing the "clear resolve of the authorities to hold what was a genuine election largely in line with international commitments and with a respect for fundamental freedoms." According to the OSCE, the only areas where serious restrictions were reported were those controlled by separatists, who undertook "increasing attempts to derail the process." The OSCE characterised the 2014 parliamentary elections (report http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/ukraine/126043) as "an amply contested election that offered voters real choice, and a general respect for fundamental freedoms".
The Independence Day in Ukraine was not marked by large scale provocations.
The same disinformation was shared by https://www.newcoldwar.org/german-foreign-minister-slammed-over-nazi-era-ukrainian-nationalist-slogan-u-s-mulls-increasing-weapons-supply/.
“Slava Ukraini” is not a Nazi slogan, it appeared before WWII and was used by different fighters for independence http://www.stopfake.org/en/fake-glory-to-ukraine-is-a-nazi-greeting/. It became popular again in Ukraine after the 2013-2014 Maidan protests. http://www.stopfake.org/en/fake-glory-to-ukraine-is-a-nazi-greeting/. Furthermore, anything Ukranian is described in pro-Kremlin outlets as Nazi. https://euvsdisinfo.eu/the-nazi-obsession-of-pro-kremlin-propagandists/
No evidence given. The spontaneous onset of the Euromaidan protests was a reaction of large parts of the Ukrainian population to former President Yanukovych’s sudden departure from the Association Agreement with the European Union in November 2013. The total number of members of radical groups, e.g. the "Right Sector", never amounted to more than a few hundred to a maximum of a thousand people. The vast majority of the protesters (up to two million at one time nationwide) consisted of peaceful Ukrainian citizens http://bit.ly/1Tl9X7W.
The EU strongly supported holding open, free and democratic Presidential and parliamentary elections in May and October 2014 and called on all parties to join in this support, to help overcome the crisis and allow the Ukrainian people to choose their own future.
The 2014 presidential election in Ukraine was a genuine election largely in line with international commitments and respecting fundamental freedoms, despite the hostile security environment in two eastern regions of the country. According to the OSCE (of which Russia is a participating State) "the people of Ukraine had the opportunity to genuinely express their will at the ballot box" http://bit.ly/1hqcDuR. Similarly, Ukraine’s local elections in October 2015 were competitive and generally showed respect for the democratic process http://bit.ly/1VUL9V5.
The source for the disinformation is CyberBerkut, a hackers group known for claiming cyber-attacks against NATO or German Chancellery and Bundestag. “CyberBerkut is a front organization for Russian state-sponsored cyber activity, supporting Russia’s military operations and strategic objectives in Ukraine,” writes the U.S Defense Intelligence Agency http://www.dia.mil/Portals/27/Documents/News/Military%20Power%20Publications/Russia%20Military%20Power%20Report%202017.pdf.We have previously written about several similar versions of the same disinformation in the Eastern Partnership countries https://euvsdisinfo.eu/shock-conspiracy-chemical-attack/.
The source for the disinformation is CyberBerkut, a hackers group known for claiming cyber-attacks against NATO or German Chancellery and Bundestag. “CyberBerkut is a front organization for Russian state-sponsored cyber activity, supporting Russia’s military operations and strategic objectives in Ukraine,” writes the U.S Defense Intelligence Agency http://www.dia.mil/Portals/27/Documents/News/Military%20Power%20Publications/Russia%20Military%20Power%20Report%202017.pdf. We have previously written about several similar versions of the same disinformation in the Eastern Partnership countries https://euvsdisinfo.eu/shock-conspiracy-chemical-attack/.
Russia violated international law as well as key principles of the European security framework in illegally annexing the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol. The European Union does not recognise and continues to strongly condemn this violation of international law, which remains a challenge to the international security order. This position is based on the UN Charter, which clearly states that the territory of a State cannot be acquired by another State resulting from the threat or use of force, as well as on the Helsinki Final Act in which the signatories declared their intention to respect the inviolability of frontiers and territorial integrity: http://bit.ly/2d9uXT9.