It took almost two hundred years, from 1163-1345, to complete the construction of Notre Dame Cathedral on a small island in the middle of the Seine.

But it took only a couple of hours for the pro-Kremlin disinformation machine to exploit tragedy yet again and start spreading inflammatory, contradictory and divisive messages, even while the jewel of Paris still burned on Monday evening. The devastating fire brought down the cathedral’s famous spire and destroyed much of its roof.

For pro-Kremlin disinformation, the matter of timing is frequently used as ultimate justification for presenting different forms of conspiracies around any tragedy.

In the disinformation world, there are no coincidences. So false messages blamed the yellow vests for the fire, seeking revenge against Emmanuel Macron. Why? Because the fire started just before the president was supposed to address the French people with a speech!

Next, accusations followed that Islamists must be behind the catastrophe. After all, the fire occurred on the first day of the Holy Week in France, and earlier horrors have also taken place during this time period. For the conspirators, then, the conclusion is self-evident – it has to be the Islamists. “A mosque might be built at the site of Notre Dame”, the fog of falsehood further predicted.

A whole structure of disinforming argumentation around the Notre Dame fire was manufactured to blame Ukraine – and if we go back just a few weeks, the same happened with the New Zealand terror attack. This time, Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to France and apparent proximity to the cathedral was enough to trigger disinformation accusing Zelensky of the misfortune. But then the message became even more radical: France is now rightly suffering because it helped “Nazis to gain power in Ukraine”. But no, Ukraine still is not governed by Nazis, no matter how hard pro-Kremlin disinformation tries to justify Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine with these types of messages.

While the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, the Paris prosecutor’s office is currently treating it as an accident, ruling out arson and terrorism. Hundreds of millions of euros have already been pledged to rebuild the cathedral.

At the same time, pro-Kremlin disinformation has also been busy implying that the fire is “punishment for tolerance and gay marriages in Europe”, which is suffering from moral decay. In the same vein, Notre Dame was claimed as belonging in spirit to Russians, the only ones who apparently still uphold European values.

Russia Today also sought to create artificial parallels between recent attacks against Catholic churches in France and the Notre Dame fire. These efforts clearly appealed to its audience on social media, as the Facebook video post about the burning of Catholic churches in France (based on this RT article, published on 15 April) received 3.9K reactions and 5.8K shares. But the attempts to play with people’s anger ultimately backfired, and RT quickly had to correct the article on its website.


related disinfo cases

Date
Title
Outlets
Country
01.05.2019
Sputnik Poland
Poland
16.04.2019
Ria Novosti
US, Ukraine, Russia
16.04.2019
News Front - Russian
France
16.04.2019
ren.tv
France
16.04.2019
ren.tv
France
16.04.2019
znak.com, uralpolit.ru, Komsomolskaya Pravda - Ural
France
16.04.2019
vz.ru
France
16.04.2019
Tsargrad TV
France
16.04.2019
Tsargrad TV
France, Russia
15.04.2019
RT English - YouTube, RT English
France
15.04.2019
RT English
UK, US
15.04.2019
znak.com
France
15.04.2019
Tsargrad TV
France
15.04.2019
Russia News
France, Ukraine
14.04.2019
Sputnik France
Ukraine, Russia
14.04.2019
NTV - YouTube, Vesti.doc talk show @ Pervyi kanal
Ecuador
14.04.2019
Sputnik Italia
UK, Russia
13.04.2019
Evrozona @ Vesti FM
US, Ukraine
12.04.2019
Rossia 24 - YouTube
Ukraine
12.04.2019
Vitbich
Belarus
12.04.2019
Sputnik Belarus - Russian
US, Ukraine
12.04.2019
RT Russia, Sozh
Belarus
12.04.2019
Sputnik English
UK, Russia
11.04.2019
RT Germany (old)
Ukraine
11.04.2019
RT Germany (old)
Germany, Russia
11.04.2019
Russia - Ukraine - YouTube
Ukraine
11.04.2019
Sputnik Italia
Turkey, US, Ukraine, Russia
11.04.2019
Sputnik Italia
UK, Russia
10.04.2019
Vesti Ukraina, Znaj.ua, Politeka
Poland, Ukraine
10.04.2019
Sputnik Germany
US, Baltic states
10.04.2019
Twitter Resource
Spain
10.04.2019
RT English
Poland, Russia
10.04.2019
Sputnik France
US, Russia
09.04.2019
ukraina.ru
Ukraine
09.04.2019
RT Germany (old)
Yugoslavia, US
09.04.2019
RT Germany (old)
Kosovo, US
09.04.2019
Sputnik Germany
Ukraine, Russia
09.04.2019
Sputnik Belarus - Russian
UK, US, Belarus, Russia
08.04.2019
Pervyi Kanal
US, Ukraine
07.04.2019
RT Russia
Estonia
06.04.2019
Sputnik Poland
UK, France, Syria, US, Russia
06.04.2019
RT Russia
Russia
05.04.2019
Sputnik France
05.04.2019
RT Russia, Rossia 24 - YouTube
Georgia, Ukraine
05.04.2019
RT English
Venezuela, US
04.04.2019
Sputnik Poland
USSR, Poland
04.04.2019
Sputnik Poland
04.04.2019
Sputnik South-Ossetia
Georgia, Russia
04.04.2019
Sputnik Spain
Venezuela, US
03.04.2019
RT France - YouTube
Ukraine, Russia
02.04.2019
Sputnik Poland
Italy
02.04.2019
Resonance
Georgia
31.03.2019
Sputnik Poland
Spain, France, US, Ukraine
21.03.2019
Vitbich
US, Belarus, Ukraine
20.03.2019
Resonance
Georgia
15.03.2019
Mogilew.by, Soglasie.by
Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Russia