Less than two weeks ago, elections were held in Germany. And although the election campaigning is over, the disinformation campaign is still ongoing. We have written about the narratives used about Germany and especially Angela Merkel several times before and during the last week we could notice some echoing of those familiar stories, as well as a couple of new disinformation inventions. For example, Germany was again accused of establishing a fascist regime in Ukraine and again we saw disinformation about the amounts paid to refugees in the country.
Among the newcomers in the disinformation spectra, we noticed false claims that the German secret service will carry out surveillance of the 13% of the German population that voted for the AfD, that Angela Merkel won’t be able to cooperate with the Greens and FDP since they are Eurosceptic, and that representatives of Russia have never spoken to representatives of the AfD (clearly not true).
And although we still can’t say anything about the impact, as shown by the DFRLab, some of the messaging in the countdown to the German elections was amplified by Russian-language bots; and on Russian social media platform VKontakte, 90 percent of the most popular posts concerning the German election supported the AfD.
Pizza gate, Daesh, Nazis and genocide
What are some of the worst things you can think of? The most evil atrocity perpetrated by mankind, the unthinkable? Is it the actions of the self-proclaimed Islamic State? Or the actions by Nazi Germany during WWII? Maybe it is genocide, or paedophilia? Those are all atrocities that any sane person would object to. This week we saw pro-Kremlin disinformation accusing the US and Ukraine of all of them.
The method of accusing your enemy of the worst imaginable without providing any proof is nothing new in the disinformation universe. It is indeed a well-known tactic, and one that has considerable impact but will cost almost nothing. The logic goes that all you have to do is sow some doubt, plant an idea – and once it is out there, it will be popping up in people’s minds. “No smoke without fire.” But this kind of disinformation is just that – all smoke, no fire.
So, when a Russian state controlled TV show brings up the infamous “pizza gate” case – a conspiracy theory that was debunked and proven false about a year ago – and suggest that the theory should in fact be taken seriously in the light of new “revelations” of US politicians in a paedophilia network (again, no evidence of any network), they are creating smoke. Or when Russian state owned TV accuses Ukraine of planning a genocide of the Russian population of the country and establishing a Nazi regime – again, there is no evidence, only a lot of smoke.
Or, when TV Zvezda claims that the Syrian military has found a Ukrainian ISIS camp in Syria and another Russian state TV show claims that Ukraine provided resorts in Crimea to Daesh battalions before Russia annexed the peninsula, again – there is no evidence.
The US was also accused of creating Daesh, leading Daesh, supporting terrorism in Syria and doing everything to stop the elimination of Daesh. No mention of the Global Coalition against Daesh; instead Russia was presented as the only country that fights terrorism.
All smoke. The problem is that we can be sure that the smoke will cloud the minds of some.
Disinformation cases reported in the previous week:
The new Ukrainian law on education has nothing to do with Nazism. More on background of the law and the controversies it has raised http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/73272.
Ukraine will forward the respective parts of the Law to the Council of Europe for opinion.
Conspiracy theory, no evidence given. The demonstrations which began in Kyiv in November 2013 – called "Maidan", or "Euromaidan" – were not provoked from outside but were a result of the Ukrainian people's frustration with former President Yanukovych's last minute U-turn when, after seven years of negotiation, he refused to sign the EU–Ukraine Association Agreement and halted progress towards Ukraine's closer relationship with the EU as a result of Russian pressure. The protesters' demands included constitutional reform, a stronger role for parliament, formation of a government of national unity, an end to corruption, early presidential elections and an end to violence http://bit.ly/2ftv6iT.
Conspiracy theory, no evidence given. The US is leading the global coalition to defeat Daesh. http://www.inherentresolve.mil/campaign/
U.S.-backed militias are fighting the Daesh in its former Syrian headquarters of Raqqa. Islamic State has lost much of its territory in Syria this year under separate offensives by the SDF (US-backed militias under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces) and the Russia-backed Syrian military. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-raqqa/syrian-militias-aim-to-push-islamic-state-out-of-raqqa-within-a-month-idUSKCN1C01RZ
Background on the fight against Daesh: https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/eastern-mediterranean/syria/b053-fighting-isis-road-and-beyond-raqqa
No evidence given, conspiracy theory. Further debunking: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/aug/11/donald-trump/donald-trump-pants-fire-claim-obama-founded-isis-c/
Ukraine is recognised in international law as a sovereign nation state, with its own flag, nationality, language etc. Ukrainian citizens are citizens of Ukraine, not Russia. Russia has no right to claim them or to legislate for them.
The territorial sovereignty of Ukraine that includes the Ukrainian jurisdiction over Crimea also, has been recognized by the international community and enshrined in relevant UN resolutions.
Since September, 2014, the US has been heading the Global coalition fighting Daesh, so it cannot be an “enemy” of Russia in the struggle against terrorism. http://theglobalcoalition.org/en/home/
In February 2017, Frauke Petry, the leader of Germany’s far-right party AfD, held talks with Russian officials and politicians during her visit to Moscow, including with Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Duma lower house, his deputy Pyotr Tolstoy and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the pro-Kremlin Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and others. http://www.dw.com/en/head-of-the-afd-frauke-petry-meets-with-russian-officials-in-moscow/a-37643188
Earlier, in April 2016, Marcus Pretzell, member of the European Parliament from AfD and husband of Frauke Petry, travelled to Crimea annexed by Russia.
No evidence given, recurring disinformation and conspiracy theory. The US has never had any project for the establishing a "fascist regime" in Ukraine.
The German parties FDP and the Greens do not have Eurosceptic programs.
See: http://www.politico.eu/article/germany-parties-plan-for-eu-in-election-campaign/, https://www.gruene.de/programm-2017/a-bis-z/wir-kaempfen-um-europas-zusammenhalt.html, https://www.fdp.de/thema/europa.
No evidence given. The German intelligence services have been tasked with the collection and the analysis of information on efforts directed against the free democratic basic order or against the existence and the security of the Federation or one of its States or aimed at unlawfully hampering constitutional bodies of the Federation or one of its States or their members in the performance of their duties or jeopardising foreign interests of the Federal Republic of Germany by the use of violence or the preparation thereof or directed against the idea of international understanding (article 9, para. 2 of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz, GG)), especially against the peaceful coexistence of peoples and intelligence activities carried out on behalf of a foreign power (counter-intelligence).
Moreover, in conformity with section 3 (2) of the BVerfSchG, BfV contributes to counter-sabotage and personnel/physical security. Exercising your democratic right to vote for what you wish is neither of the above. https://www.verfassungsschutz.de/en/about-the-bfv/tasks/what-exactly-are-the-tasks-of-the-domestic-intelligence-services
Free movement is granted to EU citizens only. According to 2016 EU regulation, asylum seekers shall have their application rejected if they move to another country.
Recurring disinformation about allowances for refugees in Germany https://euvsdisinfo.eu/report/a-syrian-refugee-with-four-wifes-and-23-children-earns-2/. The real cost is difficult to count as the money is distributed by German federal states. The Federal Government pays the states a lump sum of 670 euro per refugee a month (that is 2680 for four). See: http://www.dw.com/en/the-complex-costs-of-integrating-refugees-in-germany/a-18818095
No evidence given, recurring disinformation. Further debunk on previous false claims on Ukraine's support to Daesh: https://www.stopfake.org/en/fake-isis-training-camps-in-southern-ukraine/
Crimea did not "return to the homeland", it was illegally annexed by Russia. UNGA Resolution 68/262, which condemned Russia's illegal actions in Ukraine, was supported by 100 United Nations member states. Only 11 states opposed it. https://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47443&Cr=ukraine&Cr1=#.WdOcfWcdiEB
Russia is not the only country fighting terrorism. There are for example 73 members in the Global coalition against Daesh. http://theglobalcoalition.org/en/partners/
There is no apartheid or Nazi regime neither in the EU nor in Ukraine. There are no Nazis in the government nor in the parliament of Ukraine. Even 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 the parliament. Ukraine's electorate clearly voted for unity and moderation, not extremism or Nazism, and the composition of the parliament reflects that http://bit.ly/2dFFEdi
Criticism of Russian government's policy is not "Russophobia". There is in fact a clear record of strong cooperation between the EU and Russia, dating back to 1994, when the two sides negotiated a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. Russia was identified as a strategic partner for the EU, and was the only country with which the EU held summits not once, but twice a year.
In 2010 the EU and Russia launched a Partnership for Modernisation. As stated in the Joint Declaration: "The European Union and Russia, as long-standing strategic partners in a changing multipolar world, are committed to working together to address common challenges with a balanced and result-oriented approach, based on democracy and the rule of law, both at the national and international level" http://bit.ly/1p648gA.
Despite current difficulties in the relationship with Russia, the EU and its Member States have maintained a clear policy of reaching out to Russian society and youth, mainly through the Erasmus+ student exchange programme and other people to people contacts.
Conspiracy theory, no evidence given.
The European Commission issued a statement on the events in Catalonia where EC states that the vote in Catalonia was not in line with the Spanish constitution, but underlines that "Violence can never be an instrument in politics".
The well-known disinformation referred to as Pizza gate was disproven last year as a conspiracy theory http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-38156985. Regardless of accusations against or legal convictions of individual politicians, there is still nothing indicating that there is a network of politicians being involved in paedophilia.
TV Zvezda is a regular mouthpiece for pro-Kremlin disinformation https://euvsdisinfo.eu/dependent-media-russias-military-tv-zvezda/. Vladislav Seleznev, a spokesman for the Ukrainian general staff, stated that the military were investigating various possible causes of the fire. The SBU, the Ukrainian security service, said it suspected the fire was an act of sabotage. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/27/fire-ukraine-ammunition-depot-prompts-mass-evacuation/
Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation that Ukraine is somehow involved with or training ISIS fighters. As "proof" this time, Russian Ministry of Defence TV (recurring disinformation outlet https://euvsdisinfo.eu/dependent-media-russias-military-tv-zvezda/) is using a video which appears to be staged, where men dressed as soldiers speaking with a Syrian accent find Ukrainian cigarettes and a Ukrainian flag in what seems to be a rather luxurious building. At the end of the video the men randomly shoot out through the windows, without being shot at back. Further debunking at Stopfake.org https://www.stopfake.org/fejk-sirijskie-voennye-vzyali-shturmom-lager-ukrainskih-boevikov-ig/.
No evidence given. There is no conspiracy against Russians in Sweden and Finland, the same law applies to everyone. In order to get a residence permit in Sweden and Finland to move to live with a family member, the same rules apply to every citizen of a non-EU country: In Sweden, the following are counted as family members: wife, husband, cohabiting partner, registered partner and unmarried children under the age of 21. Unmarried children who are 21 years or older can be given a permit in certain cases. The requirement is that they are being supported financially by you or your partner. In Finland, The family members of Finnish citizens and of non-EU (third country) citizens and comparable persons are: spouse, registered partner, cohabiting partner, guardian of a child under 18 years of age, and child.
The sphere of family members is laid down by law and does not necessarily correspond to general views on what constitutes a family member. The Swedish and Finnish concept of family is narrower than that of many other countries.
There is no genocide of Russians in Ukraine. The word genocide is frequently used in pro-Kremlin disinformation https://euvsdisinfo.eu/disinformation-cases/?text=genocide&disinfo_issue=&disinfo_language%5B%5D=rus&date=, but it seldom corresponds to the actual definition of a genocide http://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide.html
No evidence given. For a comparison between NATO activities in Georgia and Russian activities in Georgia, see SOVA News timeline https://sova.news/2017/09/27/23926/.
Georgia aspires to join NATO. The country actively contributes to NATO-led operations and cooperates with the Allies and other partner countries in many other areas. Support for Georgia’s reform efforts and its goal of integration in Euro-Atlantic institutions is a priority for NATO-Georgia cooperation. http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_38988.htm
As we reported last week the story about two girls raped by Lithuanian NATO instructors was fake. https://euvsdisinfo.eu/the-pro-kremlin-pulp-mill/. As explained in the debunk last week, all of the Lithuanian soldiers are deployed in the Central and Western parts of Ukraine and none is deployed in the south-east part of Ukraine. https://euvsdisinfo.eu/report/lithuanian-nato-instructor-raped-two-girls-in-donbas/.
Recurring disinformation. The US has not declared a war to Russia. A chain of events has led to the deterioration of Russia's relationship with the United States. A turning point was the year 2014 when Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine and started to support the separatists in the East of Ukraine. Further debunk: https://www.polygraph.info/a/who-is-guilty-of-destroying-us-russia-realtions-fact-check/28735904.html
No evidence given, recurring disinformation. No evidence of genocide has been provided. The word genocide is frequently used in pro-Kremlin disinformation https://euvsdisinfo.eu/disinformation-cases/?text=genocide&disinfo_issue=&disinfo_language%5B%5D=rus&date=, but it seldom corresponds to the actual definition of a genocide http://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide.html
Recurring disinformation that the US is protecting or working together with ISIS/Daesh https://euvsdisinfo.eu/disinformation-cases/?text=Daesh&disinfo_issue=&date=. The US is fighting against Daesh together with the Global Coalition against Daesh http://theglobalcoalition.org/en/home/. The US MoD outlines the latest progress on their website https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1322158/strikes-continue-in-effort-to-defeat-isis-in-syria-iraq/.
Conspiracy theory, no evidence given. Being a NATO member, Turkey is a partner and an ally of the US.
The US doesn’t prohibit RT broadcasting in America, but requires this television company to: submit periodic
disclosures outlining its agreements with the foreign principal, disclose income from and expenditures on behalf the principal, and have
business records of its activities available for inspection by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). In addition, a foreign agent must ensure that all informational materials it distributes are conspicuously labelled and filed with the DOJ. http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/publications/reports/agent-of-influence-should-russia-s-rt-register-as-a-foreign-agent
During the Cold War, representatives of Soviet news outlets (TASS, ‘Pravda’, ‘Izvestia’ and others) were registered agents,” ( http://www.newsweek.com/time-shine-light-putins-american-propaganda-arm-542642 ).
Further debunking: http://theins.ru/antifake/73201
Recurring disinformation, no evidence given. The described activities are part of cultural and people-to-people cooperation that has nothing to do with separatism.