Disinfo: Poland, Lithuania and Western countries directly involved in the organisation of a coup in Belarus

Summary

The Czech Foreign Ministry calls its ambassador back from Minsk for consultations after Western countries supported an attempted coup in Belarus. The diplomat will leave Minsk in about a week. Therefore, the Czech Republic wants to express its solidarity with Poland and Lithuania. These countries were directly involved in the organisation of the Belarusian coup, so Minsk demanded that they recall their ambassadors and reduce their diplomatic presence in the Republic of Belarus.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the Belarusian protests.

Belarusian authorities recently demanded that Lithuania and Poland reduce their diplomatic staff in Belarus. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania held intensive consultations with other Foreign Ministries of the European Union on this demand and agreed, together with Poland, that a temporary leave of the Polish and Lithuanian ambassadors for consultations would help to reduce tensions and to maintain diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level. According to Lithuania’s Foreign Minister, there has been no agreement on the non-reduction of staff. However, if Belarus continues to insist, adequate “mirror” measures will be taken in response. In solidarity with their Polish and Lithuanian colleagues, the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic and Bulgaria decided at 8th October 2020 to temporarily recall their ambassadors from Belarus. There is no evidence that Poland, Lithuania or any other Western governments are at all involved in the protests in Belarus. Protests in Belarus erupted to contest the results of the presidential election in Belarus on the 9th of August, which were not monitored by independent experts, and are largely considered fraudulent by both international observers and a big part of the Belarusian society. On 19 August 2020 the European Council called the Belarusian elections neither free nor fair. Mobilisations were organised and carried out by local actors, opposition politicians and Belarusian citizens, without any foreign involvement.

In October 2020, the EU-Council imposed sanctions against 40 individuals identified as responsible for repression and intimidation against peaceful demonstrators, opposition members and journalists in the wake of the 2020 presidential election in Belarus, as well as for misconduct of the electoral process. See the full text and the Council conclusions (page 10). Read earlier disinformation cases alleging that Poland is preparing a Euromaidan scenario for Belarus, that Belarus will turn anti-Russian in case it does not deepen integration with Russia, that the West's only interest in Belarus is to make it anti-Russian, and that the US plans to turn Belarus into its colony, a coup and foreign military invasion may happen. Other cases allege that the West is helping to destabilise the situation in Belarus before the election, that US agents attempt to overthrow Lukashenka along the Ukrainian scenario, that the West dreams of tearing Belarus apart from Russia and to organise a Ukraine-like scenario, and that pro-Western Belarusian opposition prepares a revolution with the assistance of armed Ukrainian nationalists.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 215
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 08/10/2020
  • Language/target audience: German
  • Country: Czech Republic, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland
  • Keywords: Coup

Disclaimer

Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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Latvia and Estonia backed an attempted putsch in Belarus

The ambassadors of Latvia and Estonia were recalled from Minsk after the Baltic countries had backed an attempted putsch in Belarus.

Disproof
A recurring pro-Kremlin narrative about Western attempts to organise a coup or colour revolution in Belarus. The protests in Belarus erupted to contest the results of the presidential election on the 9th of August, which were not monitored by independent experts, and are largely considered fraudulent by both international observers and a big part of the Belarusian society. On 19 August 2020 the European Council called Belarusian elections neither free nor fair. Mobilisations were organised and carried out by local actors, opposition politicians and Belarusian citizens, without any foreign involvement. In October 2020, the EU-Council imposed sanctions against 40 individuals identified as responsible for repression and intimidation against peaceful demonstrators, opposition members and journalists in the wake of the 2020 presidential election in Belarus, as well as for misconduct of the electoral process. See the full text and the Council conclusions (page 10). Read earlier disinformation cases alleging that Poland is preparing Euromaidan scenario for Belarus, that Belarus will turn anti-Russian in case it does not deepen integration with Russia, that the West's only interest in Belarus is to make it anti-Russian, and that the US plans to turn Belarus into its colony, a coup and foreign military invasion may happen.

Novichok is a word coined by a British TV series in early 2000

The name Novichok isn’t a Russian name but was taken from a British series broadcast in early 2000, and it has since stuck in people’s heads.

Disproof

The story advances the recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative on the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. “Novichok” - “Newcomer in English” is a name that was given to a group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s in a covert programme codenamed Foliant that was revealed by defectors. Most of what we understand about Novichok agents comes from the testimony and memoirs of Dr Vil S. Mirzayanov, the Chief of the Department of Counteraction against Foreign Technical Intelligence at the Russian State Union Scientific Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology (GosNIIOKhT) who authored a 1994 report with the Stimson Center describing the state of chemical weapon disarmament in Russia, revealing Novichok's existence. Following this revelation, the US National Bureau of Standards, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in 1998, added Novichiok to its spectral data which has 300,000 compounds and is regularly updated. Furthermore, since the beginning of the 1990s, US chemical demilitarization programmes in the Commonwealth of Independent States (former USSR) included joint research on Novichoks in order to develop effective detectors, detoxifiers, reactivators and bio-scavengers. Alas, the name Novichok has already appeared in several news articles before 2000, including the New York Times 1999, New Scientist in 1994. See other examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives on Alexei Navalny’s poisoning in our database, such as claims that only caffeine and alcohol were found in his blood, that the US wanted to use it to block Nord Stream 2 and Russia’s vaccine against coronavirus, that the West hopes that he dies to have an excuse for new sanctions, or that Western accusations about Navalny’s case are as false as they were about Sergey Skripal and Aleksandr Litvinenko. The same video interview contained another disinformation claim alleging that Alexei Navalny did not shown any symptoms of Novichok.

No signs that Navalny was poisoned with Novichok

There are no signs or symptoms that show that Novichok was used against Alexei Navalny. The symptoms of poisoning that appeared on Navalny are not a familiar result of Novichok characteristics. If Novichok was indeed used, he would not have been able to survive, especially since these chemicals shut down the body completely. If a person would survive, he would be living in a vegetative state, with no ability to move or speak, or even quickly return back to a normal life.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny fell ill during a flight and the plane had to make an emergency landing in Omsk, where doctors said he was in a coma and they were trying to save his life. He was transferred to Berlin and was treated at Berlin's Charite Hospital. The German federal government said that toxicological tests provided “unequivocal evidence of a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group” in the blood samples of Navalny. On 14 September, the German government provided research by two more independent laboratories in France and Sweden, which confirmed the presence of poison from the Novichok group in the body of politician Alexei Navalny. There are at least four people known to have survived a Novichok poisoning. In 1987 Andrey Zheleznyakov, a researcher attached to the Soviet chemical warfare programme, suffered an accidental exposure to a Novichok-type compound. The accident left him permanently disabled but alive for another six years. In March 2018, Russian ex-spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yuliya fell victim to poisoning in Salisbury but recovered with intensive medical care. The UK authorities established that the assassination attempt had been carried out by two Russian intelligence operatives using Novichok. In June that year, two individuals in Amesbury, England were accidentally exposed to Novichok contained in a fake perfume bottle. One of the victims survived. Moreover, Novichok was not developed for individual assassination. Marc-Michael Blum, former head of the OPCW Laboratory, explains that "these substances are designed for the mass destruction of enemy personnel during war," and are thus "not reliable enough" if used to kill one, a specific individual in peacetime conditions. In other words, it cannot be ruled out that Navalny was poisoned by Novichok simply because he survived the ordeal and regained consciousness. Read similar disinformation cases alleging that only traces of alcohol and caffeine were found in Navalny’s blood, that West will falsely accuse Russia of poisoning Navalny, as with Skripal and Litvinenko and that if the victim does not die, it cannot be Novichok. The disinformation claim appeared in the same video, alleging that Novichok is a term coined by the British TV series in early 2000s.