Disinfo: The presence of Russian mercenaries in Libya is nothing but a rumour

Summary

The allegations that “Russian mercenaries” are present in Libya are nothing more than rumours.

Disproof

A recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the Kremlin-linked mercenary group Wagner and Russian presence in Libya.

The Wagner Group is a private army with ties to the Kremlin and has been operating in Libya since October 2018, according to a report compiled by independent monitors for the UN's Libya sanctions committee. It is a mercenary outfit engaged in conflicts on the Kremlin’s behalf from Ukraine to Syria to the Central African Republic. The Wagner group members are mostly ex-service personnel who fought clandestinely in support of Russian forces in Syria and Ukraine, according to Reuters interviews with dozens of contractors, their friends and relatives.

According to Foreign Policy, the group fell into disgrace after the Syrian offensive and has recently been trying to find work in Africa in the training of local militias and with contracts for private security. Three Russian journalists who were investigating Wagner's presence in the Central African Republic were murdered in the summer of 2018. Others were threatened.

Bloomberg has reported that more than 100 Wagner contractors arrived in Libya in early September to assist General Khalifa Haftar’s offensive against the GNA in Tripoli that began in April.

For more information on the Wagner group, see our report on a Russian attempt to hide evidence of its existence and activities.

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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US refused to help Italy against COVID-19

The United States refused to help Italy in fighting the coronavirus epidemic.

Disproof

This is part of the ongoing pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign around the coronavirus pandemic, one aim of which is to undermine European and transatlantic solidarity in face of the crisis, in line with the Kremlin's longstanding objectives to weaken the transatlantic democratic alliance.

On 11 April, US President Donald Trump ordered top U.S. administration officials to help Italy in fighting the novel coronavirus by providing medical supplies, humanitarian relief and other assistance. In a memo to several Cabinet ministers, Trump ordered a variety of measures to help Italy, including making U.S. military personnel in the country available for telemedicine services, helping set up field hospitals, and transporting supplies. He also ordered his commerce secretary to encourage U.S. suppliers to sell products requested by Italian authorities and healthcare providers.

Georgia joined the Russian empire in the early the 19th century

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Georgia joined the Russian Empire, and later became a republic of the Soviet Union.

Disproof

This disinformation message follows the Kremlin’s policy of historical revisionism by whitewashing the circumstances under which Georgia became part of the Russian Empire, suggesting that Georgia voluntarily "joined" the Russian Empire rather than being invaded. 

Georgia did not join the Russian Empire of its own free will. In 1801, Russia annexed the Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti. Subsequently, Russia also annexed other kingdoms and principalities of Georgia. In May 1918, Georgia finally gained independence from Russia after a long struggle for national liberation. Soviet Russia attempted to reconquer Georgia on several occasions, but the country managed to defend its independence for almost three years. 

Finnish invaders exterminated civilians in Karelia and have not been held responsible

Finnish invaders subjected civilian population to violence and extermination in Karelia during the WWII. The occupiers have not been held responsible for their crimes against residents of Karelia. 

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Finnish fascists built 14 concentration camps in Karelia.

 

 

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation message focusing on Finland and Russia's Karelia during WWII. In October 2019, Russia's Security Service FSB released "secret documents" about the conditions in the Finnish camps. In April 2020, more documents were published, and former prisoners of the Finnish concentration camps asked the head of the Russian Investigating committee Alexander Bastrykin to launch an investigation into crimes of the occupying authorities during the war.

The researchers have studied the treatment of civilians detained in the Finnish camps established in the Finnish-occupied Soviet Karelia in WWII, and nothing suggests Finns aimed at a genocide of the Russian or Slavic nations. The word genocide is frequently used in pro-Kremlin disinformation, but it seldom corresponds to the actual definition of a genocide.