Disinfo: The West is manipulating Ukrainian secret service to pit Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians against each other

Summary

[The detention of 33 Russian citizens in Belarus]  is a wake up call for Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, to stop and think about what happens when we are played off against each other. When secret services of Ukraine are exploited [by the West].

[…]

I hope that Belarus will draw right conclusions, that regardless of the fact that Ukrainians are brothers, but they are also puppets in the hands of CIA and the rest of Russophobes.

Disproof

Conspiracy theory.

The disinformation message appeared in relation to the detention of 33 Russian citizens by the Belarusian authorities, who are alleged to be members of Wagner group, a private Russian military company. Ukraine has requested the extradition of a number of detainees over suspicions that they have participated in hostilities in East Ukraine.

There is no reliable evidence to suggest that Ukrainian secret services act under the command of the United States or were involved in the detention of the members of the Russian private military company Wagner in Minsk. The claim presented during the TV broadcast is based on reporting of the Russian outlet "Komsamolskaya Pravda", which claims to have uncovered the plot of Ukrainian secret services behind the detention of Russian citizens. However the independent Russian investigative site the Insider has debunked the reporting of Komsamolskaya Pravda.

The disinformation message also reinforces a recurring pro-Kremlin narrative about lost sovereignty, suggesting that the West is aiming to sow discord between Russia and its neighbors. See earlier related disinformation cases: US agents attempt to overthrow Lukashenka along the Ukrainian scenario; the US wishes to destabilize Belarus and provoke a war; the West sows animosity towards Russians among little Russians.

Updated 21 August 2020: clarified language in the third paragraph of the debunk. 

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 207
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 07/08/2020
  • Language/target audience: Russian
  • Country: Ukraine, Belarus
  • Keywords: Secret services, The West, CIA

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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Poland is scared of Russia’s missiles, according to leading Polish expert

In the last decades, the capabilities of the Russian army expanded significantly and Russia is now able to strike Poland and many western countries, Andrzej Wilk from Warsaw’s Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW) said in an interview. There is no reason to doubt the power of the missiles of the Russian Federation, therefore, Poland would be scared of the Russian “mallet”, the expert said. We must say that Russia’s Ministry highlighted many times that Moscow has no intention to attack anyone, but according to several Polish citizens, given that the Russian Federation has powerful weapons, it is better that Warsaw maintains a good relation with its neighbour.

Disproof

This is a deliberate distortion of expert Andrzej Wilk’s original interview with Polish radio station Polskie Radio, who never said that there are no reasons to doubt the power of Russian missiles and that Poland is scared of them. Pro-Kremlin media frequently resort to this manipulative technique of quoting sentences from serious publications and then introduce a distorted message as if it was part of the original article, in this case recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives about Russia’s military might, its “peaceful goals” and the need for its neighbours to yield to its requests in order to maintain good relations.

The following cases are examples from our database where distorted quotes have been omitted to serious publications: pro-Kremlin media claimed that British outlet The Guardian pointed to the ruling elite as the real instigators of the racial crisis in the US or reported that the EU remained silent as Europeans couldn’t buy food for the first time in 75 years. The pro-Kremlin media also claimed that Newsweek magazine explained how a US coup in Iran will end;  that The Guardian claimed that Soros’ structures saw an opportunity in the coronavirus pandemic to attack the “bad guys”; or that the US special envoy for Syria admitted that Washington’s goal was to defend terrorists from Russian attacks.

Foreign Policy magazine proposed two scenarios to overthrow Lukashenko

European countries need to take control of the situation in Belarus. US magazine Foreign Policy suggests that the EU will first have to actively fill the information space with statements against Lukashenko. For example, it could be recommended to accuse him of repression or electoral fraud, at the same time that a “double approach” is promoted: Europe will announce that it is ready to provide material support to Belarus during the so-called “transition period”, and to help individual political forces inside the country that “want to help the process”. The goal is to carry out a “silent” coup in the frame of the election in Belarus. The publication admits that this scenario is unlikely, so they offer an alternative. If Lukashenko refuses to deliver the government voluntarily to a pro-Western opposition successor, he will face “hard moderation measures” in the form of colossal pressuring sanctions. However, in its attempts to overthrow Lukashenko, the article says, the European Union should take into account past mistakes. Six years ago, while Brussels was negotiating free trade with Kyiv, power-hungry Ukrainian oligarchs overthrew Viktor Yanukovych, surprising the EU, causing an armed conflict and effectively interrupting the diplomatic and constructive process of rapprochement with Europe.

Disproof

Contrary to the claim, none of those statements are in the original Foreign Policy article, whose content is deliberately distorted to support a set of recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives, framing the West as conspiring to take control in Belarus through a colour revolution. Actually, the FP article calls for European strategic leadership during the Belarus crisis, strongly supporting free and fair elections in the country without expanding EU or NATO membership to Minsk, following the same model as applied during Armenia’s protests in 2018. It calls for Europeans to “learn the lessons of Ukraine and stick to a firm public script of values and rule of law”, and affirms that EU leaders should make clear “to Moscow that any dramatic erosion of Belarusian sovereignty would be met by sanctions”. This is radically different from calling for president Alexander Lukashenko’s overthrow and setting the scenarios to do it.

The following cases are examples from our database where distorted quotes have been omitted to serious publications: pro-Kremlin media claimed that British outlet The Guardian pointed to the ruling elite as the real instigators of the racial crisis in the US or reported that the EU remained silent as Europeans couldn’t buy food for the first time in 75 years. The pro-Kremlin media also claimed that Newsweek magazine explained how a US coup in Iran will end; that The Guardian claimed that Soros’ structures saw an opportunity in the coronavirus pandemic to attack the “bad guys”; or that the US special envoy for Syria admitted that Washington’s goal was to defend terrorists from Russian attacks.

Arrest of Russian ‘mercenaries’ in Belarus was a Ukrainian provocation

The 33 Russian citizens arrested in Belarus in late July have been labelled members of the Russian private military company Wagner and allegedly hired to destabilise the country. However, a Russian newspaper investigation traces the affair to Ukraine and says it could be a provocation by its intelligence services.

The tickets for the group were booked by a Ukraine-based travel agency, according to information provided by Turkish Airlines. The Ukrainian firm had only opened in January 2020. Yet another Ukrainian firm, also registered in January, was used to buy tickets for the second group of contractors. 

The journalist behind the investigation believes that the entire set-up was orchestrated by Ukraine’s successor to the KGB, the SBU, which then allegedly tipped off its Belarusian counterpart about the ‘Russian mercenaries’, portraying them as a threat to Belarus and aiming to drive a wedge between Moscow and Minsk.

Disproof

The story advances recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives about Ukraine and its security services

Despite its considerable length, the “investigation” originally published by the pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda bases its claim of Ukrainian involvement in the affair entirely on the manner in which the plane tickets were acquired.