Disinfo: By claiming that there are Russian warplanes in Libya, AFRICOM is waging a psy-op on US public

Summary

US African Command (AFRICOM), in charge of hunting terrorists in Africa, seems more interested instead in waging psychological operations aimed at the US public, the Pentagon and the White House. AFRICOM recently focused its efforts in using friendly journalists, media leaks and statements in social media to lobby Washington for more power, influence and money, publishing a series of tweets accusing Russia of sending warplanes to Libya. Its commander general Charles Townsend said that “they had seen how Russia flew fourth-generation warplanes to Libya”, but no evidence was offered. Russian officials have dismissed this claim as ridiculous. Among explosive tweets, anonymous insinuations to friendly conservative reporters and leaks to liberals, the image that is emerging is one of AFRICOM carrying out a psychological (psychopathic) operation, a propaganda war against US public.

Disproof

The deployment of Russian warplanes in Libya has been confirmed by multiple sources. According to Bloomberg news agency, their presence was first reported by Fathi Bashagha, the security chief in Tripoli, who said at least six MiG 29s and two Sukhoi 24s had flown into the east from the Russian-controlled Hmeimim Air Base in Syria, escorted by two Su-35 Russian air force jets. This was later confirmed by satellite images (see here and here), by images of the aircraft taken by the US Air Force, and indirectly by Saqr al-Jaroushi, the head of the air force of Russia’s backed Libyan National Army (LNA), who on May 20 boasted that his forces were about to launch “the largest aerial campaign in Libyan history”. Further information on the deployment of the aircraft emerged afterwards. This is happening after the Russia-backed LNA was forced to retreat from the airbase of al-Watiyah and Wagner fighters were allegedly expelled from a location in southern Tripoli in the previous days, which points to a Russian escalation in support of LNA through an increase of air power to compensate those losses. As POLYGRAPH.info notes, the presence of Russian fighter jets in Libya has been confirmed by multiple "[i]ndependent sources, including those critical of the the US." Most of these reports predate the AFRICOM press release (26 May). See POLYGRAPH.info's full debunk here, and our own reporting on the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group here and here. By denying this deployment and calling it instead “an AFRICOM psy-op”, Russia is resorting to a recurrent disinformation narrative aiming to portray itself as a blameless victim of Western machinations, innocent of any misdeed. You can see other examples in our database, such as claims about NATO military exercises as acts of war against Russia; alleged plans to encircle Russia or to wage war against it; the supposed anti-Russian bias of international institutions - be it the OPCW, the World Anti-Doping Agency or the United Nations - which always falsely accuse Russia; the alleged Russophobia of the EU; the affirmation that it is NATO and not the Kremlin who is involved in the Donbas conflict; or denials that Russia had any role in the poisoning of Sergey Skripal or the downing of MH17, that it interfered in other countries’ elections or that it is waging a disinformation campaign on COVID-19.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 199
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 28/05/2020
  • Outlet language(s) Spanish, Castilian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: Libya, US, Russia
  • Keywords: Anti-Russian, Intelligence services, Africa
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The people of Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan are "biomaterial" for the Pentagon

The people of Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan are “biomaterial” for the Pentagon. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, there are 12 (American) laboratories in Armenia, 15 in Ukraine, 15 in Georgia and 4 in Kazakhstan. No matter what is written on the paper. It is clear that the purpose of such laboratories is to create biological weapons against the peoples of the former Soviet Union. The existence of such biolaboratories in the United States is prohibited.

Disproof

This is a recurring conspiracy theory alleging that the United States develops biological weapons and has secret biological laboratories around the world. Consistent with the Pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign against biological laboratories in Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine and other countries. The conspiracy about US biolabs in countries bordering Russia aiming to encircle Moscow and spread infectious diseases is a part of a years-long disinformation campaign led by the Kremlin. In fact, biological laboratories are involved in preventing the risks of complex diseases and, together with other similar projects, counteracting bioterrorism. In Ukraine, the claim often refers to the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine (STCU), which is an intergovernmental organisation established in an international agreement in 1993. Its mission is to support civilian science, technology partnerships and collaboration through chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear risk mitigation. The projects of STCU partners include research on adjuvant for improvement of cancer vaccines, detecting trace impurities in biological tissues, human vision diagnostics, and therapy among many others.

In Georgia, it is the Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research, which is a facility of the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC). It is a top-tiered institution in NCDC’s laboratory network and serves as a reference laboratory for Georgia’s public health system. Read more about the disinformation campaign surrounding the Lugar Laboratory on Myth Detector.

The US/NATO defense systems in Eastern Europe can be used to destroy Russian defense potential

The multipurpose ocean system “Poseidon” is Russia’s asymmetric response to the dangerous concentration of the Pentagon and NATO’s strike potential in Eastern Europe. And to the formation of a US missile defense system there, which can be used to destroy the defense potential of the Russian Federation.

Disproof

Speculative statements, an attempt to justify the creation of weapons of mass destruction as a response to an alleged threat from NATO. Consistent with the recurring pro-Kremlin narrative on NATO belligerence towards Russia. NATO's missile defence system is defensive and not directed against Russia. Bilateral agreements between the US and host nations do not allow missile sites to be used for any purpose other than missile defence. NATO's exercises and military deployments in the Eastern Europe not directed against Russia – or any other country. Exercises are designed to ensure that NATO forces are trained, able to operate together and ready to respond to any threat from any direction. NATO has reached out to Russia consistently, transparently and publicly over the past 29 years. The allegation about NATO's plans to wage a war against Russia was addressed on NATO's official website: "Any claims that NATO is preparing an attack on Russia are absurd." NATO is a defensive alliance and does not pose a threat to Russia. Its purpose is to protect its member states. Every country that joins NATO undertakes to uphold its principles and policies, and this includes the commitment that "the Alliance does not seek confrontation and poses no threat to Russia," as reaffirmed at the Brussels Summit. For more information about NATO-Russia relations and disinformation narratives about NATO, see here and here. Here you can see other examples of disinformation on NATO alleged goals in Crimea and its intentions to introduce a fleet to the Azov Sea, provocations against Russia in the Black Sea or the dangers created by the Alliance’s activities in those waters, preparations for big war, NATO provokes Russia in the Black Sea region.

Kyiv occupants are robbing residents of citizens of the Donetsk region

UNs report on the human rights situation in Ukraine for the period16 November 2019 to 15 February 2020 says that most civilian victims of the conflict in 2019 are in the self-proclaimed republics. Therefore, it can be inferred that they were bombed by the Ukrainian occupying forces.

Disproof

Recurrent disinformation about the illegitimacy of Kyiv to control the Donbas and eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian armed forces represent the legal government and cannot be considered "occupying forces". Parts of the region is under control of Russian forces and separatist entities. The UN report expresses criticism on behalf of all parties for failing to protect civilians in areas adjacent to the separation line. The full report can be found here:

OHCHR remains gravely concerned by continued arbitrary detention, torture and illtreatment of conflict-related detainees, both in Government-controlled territory and in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘republics’.