On Friday this week the Eastern Partnership summit will take place in Brussels between the EU and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. In the build up, we have seen plenty of pre-emptive distortion concerning the facts about the EU’s cooperation with its Eastern Partners.
For example, there is the claim that the new agreement between Armenia and the EU, half of which focuses on building a stronger economy, will not in fact have any affect on the economy. The EU was accused of restricting Georgian products, whereas in fact Georgia enjoys a zero customs duty policy on the import of goods into EU countries, save for one product: garlic. It was also claimed that only Europe benefits from the agreement with Georgia, whereas actually trade relations between the EU and its partner countries are mutually beneficial.
The most common myths about the Eastern Partnership have been compiled and debunked here, available in all EU languages and Russian.
As we have pointed out before, disinformation is a tool that can be used for many purposes; to confuse, to cover the facts, to discredit something or someone. Or, as Ben Nimmo explains it with the 4 D:s; dismiss, distort, distract, dismay.
What was said in pro-Kremlin channels about Theresa May after she stated that Russia seeks to weaponise information is a recent example of pro-Kremlin disinformation efforts to dismiss a critic. But as shown this week, disinformation is not always a reaction-sometimes it is rather proactive.
Disinformation – live in conflict
Another Eastern Partner, Ukraine, continued to get the usual extra attention in pro-Kremlin outlets. This week, the focus seemed to be on alleging the preparation of future atrocities to be committed by either the US or the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
On Russian state controlled TV, the US was accused of paying Ukraine to keep the conflict going, actively preventing peace in the east of Ukraine, but also of provoking the war in Ukraine in order to stop the new “Great Silk Road”. Neither theory was backed up by any evidence.
The “real” reason for the conflict in Ukraine? There is a more truthful explanation.
And Ukrainian authorities were accused of having conducted ethnic cleansing in Donbas as well as of planning, in cooperation with the US, to conduct large-scale ethnic cleansing in that area. Again, there are no indications to back these assertions up.
A similar unsubstantiated claim in pro-Kremlin disinformation was that the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council have death squads at their command. If these are simply cases of distortion, or if it is also a case of distracting the attention from something else, remains to be seen.
The regulations of the World Anti-Doping Agency apply equally to every athlete, regardless of his or her country of origin. Russia was sanctioned because of its massive programme of state-sponsored doping with a view to gaining unfair sporting advantage. Concerns over Russian doping had existed for many years https://www.rferl.org/a/russian-officials-refuse-accept-charges-state-sponsored-doping-wada-mclaren-mutko/28658126 , html http://bit.ly/2anCHeu,
No evidence given. The US is firmly committed to supporting Ukrainian security and stability http://bit.ly/1qCWSfd
The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has stated that “the information available suggests that the situation within the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol amounts to an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. This international armed conflict began at the latest on 26 February when the Russian Federation deployed members of its armed forces to gain control over parts of the Ukrainian territory without the consent of the Ukrainian Government https://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/otp/161114-otp-rep-PE_ENG.pdf.
The total number of applications for a long-term visa in the Czech Republic in 2016 was 16 153. Americans (3191), Ukrainians (2819) and Russians (2143) are the nationalities that most often applied for long-term visas. The number of applications for long-term residence permits was even lower, namely 8226, which is a 25% decrease compared to 2015. The Embassy of the Czech Republic does not have the power to grant any kind of visa. The functions of Czech embassies abroad are more informative and diplomatic. Ambassadors are tasked to represent the Czech Republic and Czech culture abroad, to establish contacts, to ensure consular activity and to monitor the implementation of international treaties. As of September 30, 2017, the number of immigrants from Saudi Arabia recorded for temporary stay was 150 and 24 for a permanent period. There is only 1 Qatar immigrant in the Czech Republic, and only for a temporary period. http://www.mzv.cz/jnp/cz/o_ministerstvu/adresar_diplomatickych_mis/urady_ceske_republiky_v_zahranici.html, http://www.mvcr.cz/clanek/cizinci-s-povolenym-pobytem.aspx?q=Y2hudW09MQ%3d%3d, http://www.mvcr.cz/clanek/zpravy-o-situaci-v-oblasti-migrace-a-integrace-cizincu-v-ceske-republice-za-roky-2001-2016.aspx.
The Family Reunification Directive literally says that "the right to request family reunification is only granted to holders of a residence permit for at least one year and who can reasonably be expected to have permanent residence." It is clear that it is not about the right to family reunification, but the right to apply for family reunification. The application must be accompanied by family ties, such as those concerning close relatives (husband / wife, child, mother, father). The applicant for family reunification must be able to prove on request that he has accommodation that complies with the general safety and health standards, health insurance and permanent income for his / her own nutrition and for the maintenance of his / her family members. Moreover, it is clearly stated that "the Directive does not apply to applicants for refugee status" http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/CS/TXT/?uri=LEGISSUM%3Al33118.
The EU asylum policy's objectives are to develop a common policy on asylum, subsidiary protection and temporary protection, with a view to offering an appropriate status to all third-country nationals who need international protection, and to ensure that the principle of non-refoulement is observed. This policy must be consistent with the 1951 Geneva Convention and the 1967 Protocol thereto. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/atyourservice/en/displayFtu.html?ftuId=FTU_5.12.2.html
The freedom of movement as defined in Article 26 of the Convention on the Status of Refugees clearly states that each state must ensure that a refugee who is legally present on its territory has freedom of movement within the borders of that state. This means that the Czech Republic must ensure that a refugee who is legally resident in the Czech Republic can move freely within the Czech Republic.
These kind of disinformation stories regularly appear as Christmas approaches https://euvsdisinfo.eu/disinformation-cases/?text=Christmas&disinfo_issue=&date=. There is no link between the decision to renew the Christmas fare and Ramadan. For the past nine years, 77-year-old Marcel Campion, known as "king of the fairground" has been in charge of the event but in the summer Paris City Council voted unanimously not to renew the deal with Campion. "Paris wants to host a Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées, but we want to take the time to reflect on the best solution for Parisians and tourists," a City Hall spokesperson told Le Parisien. https://www.thelocal.fr/20171108/why-there-wont-be-a-christmas-market-on-the-champs-elysees-this-year.
No evidence given.
Conspiracy theory, no evidence given. The war in Ukraine is a war between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Conspiracy theory, recurring disinformation. If a peacekeeping mission would be deployed in the East of Ukraine it would consist of an international contingent under UN mandate. There are no indications that such a mission would result in any ethnic cleansing, quite the contrary. https://www.rferl.org/a/canada-making-diplomatic-push-ukraine-un-peacekeeping-plan/28845877.html, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-to-seek-russian-approval-for-peacekeepers-in-eastern-ukraine-1510258304.
There is no evidence indicating that the authorities of Ukraine have ever carried out ethnic cleansing - whether in buses or elsewhere.
No evidence given. 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/.
The legal age of consent is 16 in the Netherlands, regardless of the sexual orientation of the persons involved have https://www.ageofconsent.net/world/netherlands.
Georgia and Ukraine enjoy a zero customs duty policy on import of goods to EU countries, except for 1 product (garlic). There is no limit on the volume of Georgian goods exported to the EU. Only a few products represent exceptions, Georgia initially has zero customs duty for these products within a certain quota, after the expiry of which the import tariff must be paid. http://mythdetector.ge/en/myth/two-lies-about-association-agreement-european-union
No evidence given. UNICEF cannot decide over Georgia's school programme. Read more about what UNICEF workes with in Georgia: https://www.unicef.org/about/annualreport/files/Georgia_2016_COAR.pdf
Recurring disinformation. On 20th of November 2015, the UN Security Council determined that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) constituted an “unprecedented” threat to international peace and security, calling upon Member States with the requisite capacity to take “all necessary measures” to prevent and suppress its terrorist acts on territory under its control in Syria and Iraq.
Unanimously adopting resolution 2249 (2015), the 15-member body (which includes Russia) condemned in the strongest terms ISIL’s gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights, as well as its destruction and looting of cultural heritage. Those who committed, or were otherwise responsible for, terrorist acts or human rights violations must be held accountable. By other terms, the Council urged Member States to intensify their efforts to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters into Iraq and Syria, and to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorism.
Further debunking by the Insider.
Reccurring disinformation. As the DPR appears on the US Office of Foreign Asset Control sanctions list as a separate entity, without any qualifiers such as self-proclaimed or so-called, Ukraina.ru interprets that as de-facto recognition. At the same time, Ukraina.ru adds that according to the US Treasury, the DPR is an administrative part of Ukraine.
According to the US Embassy in Ukraine the self-proclaimed separatist republics are not recognised by anyone although they are listed separately on the OFAC sanctions list. Further debunking by StopFake.
We have already seen several disinformation stories concerning the cooperation between the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries; many of those myths are debunked here https://eeas.europa.eu/eap-myths. In fact, the comprehensive and enhanced partnership agreement between the EU and Armenia (CEPA) is mainly about economy. For example, the Agreement will provide a better regulatory environment, that will improve the business climate and investment opportunities for Armenian and EU companies, it also foresees liberalisation of bilateral trade in many services sectors which means that Armenian businesses will be able to participate in public procurement tenders in the EU and vice versa and it includes measures to reduce unnecessary barriers to trade. For example, public consultations on regulations affecting consumer products will be extended to companies of the other party, and cumbersome labelling requirements will be avoided. As a result, more companies will be able to offer their products in Armenian and the EU markets, ensuring competitive prices.
Zvezda TV, owned by Russia’s Ministry of Defence, is well known to spread disinformation https://euvsdisinfo.eu/dependent-media-russias-military-tv-zvezda/. Armenia is not a fascist country, however it is a common narrative that pro-Kremlin outlets uses about countries/persons that the Kremlin disagrees with, for example Ukraine https://euvsdisinfo.eu/disinformation-cases/?text=fascism&disinfo_issue=&date=.
Nzhdeh was one of the prominent military leaders of a short-lived independent Armenian republic formed in 1918. In 1920, he mounted armed resistance against the republic’s takeover by Bolshevik Russia in Zangezur, a mountainous region in what is now southeastern Armenia. He is widely credited with preserving Armenian control over Zangezur. The Spokesperson of the Armenian Embassy in Russia had a meeting with the Director of the Zvezda TV channel, who had explained that it was a mistake, a negligence by the editorial staff and apologized, and then in a few hours the official apology letter was sent to the Armenian Embassy. The full text of the letter was read in Armenian during the report. During the meeting the Director has informed that the TV channel is currently undergoing staff related issues and this negligence is caused by that factor.
Speaking at the Halifax Forum, Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO's doors are open, but in order to become a NATO member, a country must fulfill the necessary requirements. NATO is currently helping both Ukraine and Georgia with the implementation of reforms needed to meet criteria for entry into the military alliance. The decision to accept or reject new members will be taken by 29 NATO member countries, Stoltenberg pointed out according to Interfax.
The source used in the article is former Ukrainian Transport Minister Yevhen Chervonenko, who during a television program on Ukraine’s ZIK channel announced that thousands of trucks are stuck on Ukraine’s western borders and not allowed entry into Europe. Chervonenko claimed that he was in Lviv with the current Ukrainian Infrastructure minister Volodymyr Omelyan trying to solve this alleged problem.
Minister Omelyan told StopFake that cargo traffic between countries is carried out on bilaterial quota principles and the last few years have seen a significant increase in the number of transports to Poland. Ukraine currently has 10,000 transport permits granted by Poland, approximately equivalent to 10.000 trucks crossing the Polish border and hopes for another 10,000 by the year’s end, Omelyan said.
Long lines with “thousands of trucks on the western borders”, that Russian media are writing about were also dismissed by the Ukrainian Border Service. Border Service press spokesman Oleg Slobodyan told StopFake that there are no backups at the Ukrainian Polish border. On both the Ukrainian and Polish sides, its business as usual, he said. Further debunking by StopFake.
Actually, the main aim of a Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defence (PESCO), as outlined in the Treaty of the EU, Articles 42 (6) and 46, as well as Protocol 10 is EU Member States' closer cooperation in security and defence. Member States agreed to step up the European Union's work in this area and acknowledged that enhanced coordination, increased investment in defence and cooperation in developing defence capabilities are key requirements to achieve it.
Through PESCO, Member States increase their effectiveness in addressing security challenges and advancing towards further integrating and strengthening defence cooperation within the EU framework. https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-Homepage/34226/permanent-structured-cooperation-pesco-factsheet_en
The EU provides Georgian companies with funding, training, and export support to new markets through the EU4Business initiative. Trade relations between the EU and partner countries are mutually beneficial. For example, the Eastern Partnership countries offer new markets and consumers to European businesses, and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine allow citizens in those countries to benefit from greater choice, quality and safety of products available to them thanks to increased standards of consumer protection.Georgia enjoy a zero customs duty policy on import of goods to EU countries, except for 1 product (garlic). There is no limit on the volume of Georgian goods exported to the EU. Only a few products represent exceptions, Georgia initially has zero customs duty for these products within a certain quota, after the expiry of which the import tariff must be paid. Customs controls at the EU's external borders mean that imported products must still comply with EU standards and requirements. The EU can also take measures if an EU-based industry complains about the damage caused by unfair practices such as dumping or subsidies. Furthermore, Ukraine can not use up quotas for Georgia, since the quota are country specific. https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/35712/myths-about-eastern-partnership-factsheet_en. Further debunking at Myth Detector http://mythdetector.ge/en/myth/two-lies-about-association-agreement-european-union.
The article was indeed published, but only in a media outlet called the Luxembourg Herald (which appears to have no link to Luxembourg), where it appeared as an opinion piece without an author's name. The article was very swiftly picked up and carried by various Russian media. No evidence or documents were given in the text. http://luxherald.com/1459-president-poroshenkos-wife-involved-looting-money-needy-children.html. More detail from the fact-checking website the Insider.