During the course of the last week we have seen several old recurring narratives in pro-Kremlin disinformation. One favourite is to focus on the alleged occurrence of a nuclear accident in Ukraine. While not forgetting or denying the real accident in Chernobyl in 1986, disinformation about other nuclear power plants accidents in Ukraine is something we have seen since the start of the conflict in Ukraine in 2014 (e.g. here).
What was new this time around was that France was also targeted. As usual, a grain of truth is to be found in the middle of all of the disinformation: a small trace of radioactive Iodine-131 of unknown origin was indeed in January detected over large areas in Europe – but it was deemed by most as so small and without any health implications that it had no news value. Finnish authorities did report the trace and made clear that it posed no threat to health and also that it is not known where the trace originated – it could have come from a varied range of medicine producers or from a nuclear reactor.
Pro-Kremlin outlets, however, reported that European countries had accused Ukraine of being responsible for the leak – Russian state sponsored RIA Novosti even justified their report with a false quote from the Independent Barents Observer, who in their turn made clear that the attribution was false. The pattern was repeated by another outlet, claiming that several nuclear accidents had occurred over the past year in Ukraine and referring to Deutsche Welle as the source of the information. Deutsche Welle also refuted the claim, which was indeed subsequently removed, as reported by Stopfake. Meanwhile, a Czech outlet claimed that a nuclear accident in France was the reason for the (imaginary) “nuclear cloud” over Europe.
Repeating a lie makes it true?
Other old favourites in the pro-Kremlin disinformation catalogue that resurfaced this week were allegations that a laboratory in Georgia, that had previously been accused of spreading the H1N1 virus among other things, was now performing human experiments. The claim that Sweden imports black soil from Ukraine also re-emerged last week, a disinformation that started spreading in 2015.
And one of the most infamous disinformation examples – obfuscation over the tragic downing of flight MH17 – was once again brought up, with claims that Ukraine was to blame for the tragedy or that no one had concluded that the plane was wilfully shot down – despite the evidence presented by the Joint Investigative Team. Let us just remind you of the various disinformations that pro-Kremlin outlets have spread about MH17.
Image: Alamy. Importing soil to Sweden seems far fetched, according to The Federation of Swedish Farmers, as there is enough in the country already.
Disinformation cases reported in the previous week