Almost five years ago on 18 August 2013, a video in Russian named “Horror. Legalisation of incest in Europe” was published on YouTube.
It is a story that indeed resembles a horror movie: slowly, it tells us with a threatening voice, European countries and especially Scandinavia, are moving towards legalising incest and making even “incestophobia” punishable.
In fact, incest is prohibited in the EU countries.
Now, the video has been shared over 8 600 times on Facebook. It got a whole new life and audience for its disinforming messages, when it was posted on Facebook in November last year, and the fact that many commentators see it as a propagandistic piece doesn’t prevent others from sharing it.
The story is scraped together from screenshots of articles with headlines that actually tell the opposite of the disinformation claims – like “Icelandic app aims to prevent incest” – or video footage from police cracking down protests that have no connection whatsoever with the topic.
Delivering a warning
The video stuns viewers with twisted figures like “38 500 children that have been taken against their will and handed over to same-sex families in Germany”. We have seen before how exactly the same disinformation message made its way to Georgia. And this is not surprising: if the Youtube video is the oldest version of the story, the message has been online for almost five years, which is more than enough for an disinformation message to put down roots. The message is clear: warning that following the path of supporting democratic values will inevitably lead to moral decay and catastrophe. And it is one of the favourites of the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign.
But if effectively debunked, attempts to use social media to disinform the public can have a much shorter life cycle. This week, the Dnipropetrovsk police department in Ukraine refuted the disinformation that a Ukrainian policeman published a Facebook profile photo with a Nazi uniform. In fact, the person has never worked in the police.
Distorting international law
The complexity of international law makes it one of the easiest sources to create pro-Kremlin disinformation. So this week Russia’s foreign minister was reported stating that Russia has not violated the Budapest Memorandum. Argumentation: Russia has neither used nor threatened to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine.
Sounds convincing? Actually, the Budapest Memorandum states that “The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the CSCE [Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe] Final Act, to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” – which Russiaclearly has violated by annexation of Crimea.
Secondly, Russia’s president has already confirmed that Russia was ready to put its nuclear weapons into a state of combat readiness during tensions over the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea.
Even Western outlets may end up confusing the audience with reports on Crimea. This week, a Euronews article told how the Russian army trains children in Crimea on how to plant and defuse landmines as part of army’s “recruitment drive”. The article failed to explain the background of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, or to tell that Russia supports separatists in the war in Ukraine. Though the version of the article now on the website does concede that “Crimea, seen as a geopolitical stronghold for Moscow, was annexed from Ukraine in 2014” it also described how the European Union and US were prompted to impose “sanctions against Russia over the “illegal” move.” We recall that The United Nations General Assembly Resolution clearly says that Russia’s actions in the peninsula as well as the referendum held in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea violate international law.
See the video for other examples how pro-Kremlin disinformation praised Russia this week.
Disinformation cases reported in the previous week:
Crimea, seen as a geopolitical stronghold for Moscow, was annexed from Ukraine in 2014 — prompting the European Union and US to impose sanctions against Russia over the "illegal" move.
The article is misleading and one-sided and does not question Russian military’s role in Crimea. It fails to explain that Russia is supporting the separatists in the war in Ukraine. The only context it gives is a sentence "Crimea, seen as a geopolitical stronghold for Moscow, was annexed from Ukraine in 2014 — prompting the European Union and US to impose sanctions against Russia over the "illegal" move."
Quotation marks imply that "illegal" is a subjective concept, which it is not. Article 2, paragraph 4 of the UN Charter declares without ambiguity that "all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations" http://bit.ly/1rbGaE3. UNGA Resolution 68/262 also affirmed the General Assembly's commitment to the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and underscored the invalidity of the 2014 Crimean referendum http://bit.ly/1RZGnjo.
Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation.
The human rights missions that travelled to Ukraine in 2014 did not find evidence that the Russian minority would have been in any danger:
1. The Advisory Committee’s Ad hoc Report on the situation of national minorities in Ukraine, adopted on 1 April 2014, Council of Europe;
2. Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 15 June 2014;
4. Statement by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities on her Recent Visit to Ukraine, 4 April 2014, Statement of 19 September 2014
No evidence provided for recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation and conspiracy theory.
Czech exports to France are much higher than to Russia. France is the fifth most important destination for Czech exporters. In 2016, 5.2% of Czech exports went to France, while only 1.9% to Russia. Similarly for imports. In 2016 France accounted for 3.2% of import to the Czech Republic, while Russia 2%. Therefore in terms of export and import, Russia is less important for the Czech Republic than France.
Non-recognition does not mean that the church or its congregation do not exist. According to a poll conducted by the sociological service of the Razumkov Center in November 2016, the majority of Ukrainians - 64.7% - consider themselves Orthodox; among them 39.5% identify themselves with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and 23.3% refer themselves to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The story is based on the viewership data for the top 40 TV programmes in 2017 that gained the highest TV audience in Latvia, provided by TNS Kantar Latvia. Putin's New Year speech had the TV audience of 144K on RTR Planeta Baltija and the TV audience of 135K on PBK. Same study shows that LV President's New Year address was viewed by 196K people on PBK and LV Prime Minister's New Year address by 178K people. In fact, viewership data of TV programmes is not sufficient to draw conclusions about popularity of politicians that take part in them.
Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation. As for the “foreign armed forces”, Ukraine has never let them at its territory. It just has invited 218 foreign military instructors to help training Ukrainian soldiers. Ukraine also has never conducted a policy of “destroying Russian people” and now it is defending itself from Russia's military intervention that violates the international law.
UNGA Resolution 68/262 affirmed the General Assembly's commitment to the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and underscored the invalidity of the 2014 Crimean referendum http://bit.ly/1RZGnjo.
No evidence given. Repeating myths debunked many times. See here for a collection of debunks.
The source for this story is Seitumer Numetullayev, the head of the Public Council of the Crimean-Tatar People, a group that allegedly includes 20 Crimean Tatar organizations. However, Numetullayev has never been a Crimean Tatar leader. Prior to the annexation of Crimea he was a member of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s Regions Party heading a regional administration in the southern Kherson province. He established the Public Council of the Crimean Tatar People in 2014, the organization is completely subservient to Crimea’s occupying authorities.
According to the sole genuine representative body of the Crimean Tatars, the Medjlis, Numetullayev and his organization have no influence or support among the Crimean Tatar people. The Medjlis is a national parliament with historic traditions in Arabic, Persian and Muslim societies. The Crimean Tatar Medjlis was organized in 1991. Russian authorities declared the organization extremist and banned it in 2016. Refat Chubarov, the current Medjlis chairman is banned from entering Crimea. Today the Medjlis is based in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and is recognized by Ukraine’s parliament as the representative organ of the Crimean Tatars. Further debunking by Stopfake https://www.stopfake.org/en/fake-crimean-tatars-to-support-putin-in-march-presidential-election/.
Repeating recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation. No evidence given.
The poll cited was not about Russian social networks or Russian films, but rather about Kyiv residents’ attitudes to Ukrainian sanctions against Russia.
Obozrevatel’s original story states that a small majority of Kyiv residents do not support Ukraine’s sanctions against Russia, there is no mention of support for any particular social media site. The poll was conducted by a group called Ukrainian Democratic Circle, who have done previous polls for Obozrevatel. This particular group however is not certified by the Ukrainian Sociological Association, who omitted it from their 2014 list of trusted sources.
Obozrevatel also has a poll of their own about the ban of Russian social media and search engines, the response is a resounding support for the ban.
Zvezda TV, owned by Russia’s Ministry of Defence, is well known to spread disinformation https://euvsdisinfo.eu/dependent-media-russias-military-tv-zvezda/.
Further debunking by Stopfake https://www.stopfake.org/en/fake-kyiv-residents-want-russian-social-media-platforms-back/.
Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation. Lithuania and Latvia were among Europe's 10 fastest growing economies in 2016, according to World Economic Forum.
In addition, Estonia was second in the 2017 Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom in Europe. Lithuania was 8th and Latvia came in at 11th. In the global ranking Estonia is the 6th.
The Baltic countries have been a showcase of successful transformation after regaining independence following 50 years of Soviet occupation. This includes free market economies, well-functioning democratic institutions and legal system. http://bit.ly/K11iGM, http://bloom.bg/2eSwg3K // In 1995 in LV GDP per capita was 2.327 USD compared to 13.664 USD in 2015. In 1995 EE GDP per capita was 3.036 USD compared to 17.295 USD in 2015 http://bit.ly/1eRbn2E
No evidence given. George Soros is repeatedly blamed for many things in pro-Kremlin disinformation https://euvsdisinfo.eu/the-all-powerful-mr-soros-2/.
No evidence given. In fact, the Eastern Partnership initiative is not against any country; it is a mutually beneficial and constructive platform for countries in the region to build a closer relationship with the EU, if they so choose. The EU does not demand that any of its partners need to make a choice between the EU or any other countries. We stand for good neighbourly relations. The Eastern Partnership respects the individual aspirations and ambition of each partner country https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/35712/myths-about-eastern-partnership-factsheet_en.
No evidence given. In total, the population of Estonia increased by 0.2 percent in 2017. Net migration has been positive in Estonia for three years in a row, Statistics Estonia said.https://news.postimees.ee/4378179/estonian-population-grows-by-3-070-in-2017
Also. positive migration noted in Lithuania in December 2017 http://www.lrt.lt/naujienos/lietuvoje/4/199722/lietuva-nebenyksta-gruodi-imigravo-daugiau-nei-emigravo
The video was published on Facebook in November 2017. On January 23 in 2018 it had been shared over 8 400 times.
Incest is illegal in all the European countries.// Disinformation about 38 500 children has been spread before in Georgia and debunked by us: https://euvsdisinfo.eu/report/in-2011-in-germany-38-500-children-were-taken-away/
No evidence given. Freedom of speech is not impaired in the Baltic countries, according to recent indexes https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2018, https://rsf.org/en/ranking,
The Budapest Memorandum states that "The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the CSCE [Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe] Final Act, to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine". https://www.larouchepub.com/eiw/public/2014/eirv41n08-20140221/34-35_4108.pdf, https://sut.am/en/archives/2396, https://euvsdisinfo.eu/report/russia-has-never-violated-the-budapest-memorandum-because-russia-promised/. This was clearly violated by Russia https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headQuarters-homepage/37464/eu-non-recognition-policy-crimea-and-sevastopol-fact-sheet_en.
The police department from Dnipropetrovsk refuted this information on its official Facebook page: "We inform you officially that the person who impersonates the employee of the Dnipropetrovsk police, in fact, is not and never was (a policeman). Photos that are on this person's page with a policeman have been edited".
The article does not provide evidence to the claims and is based on anonymous sources. The effect of the misleading message is strengthened with an image from a rape and revenge -film. It links to an article in the Independent that in fact reports that "Police believe they have exposed a new grooming gang in London as officers warn widespread abuse is taking place across the country. Four girls between the age of 13 and 15 have reported being raped by a group based around a McDonald’s in Stratford, triggering a crackdown that has so far identified at least 30 potential victims." There is no evidence that the police would be reluctant to take actions against the grooming gangs for fears of being accused of racism. According to reports, victims of the grooming gangs come from different ethnic backgrounds. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/10/abuse-asian-girls-missed-white-victims
The issue has been widely discussed in the UK after a scandal of large-scale sex abuse of children came to light in Rotherham in 2012. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-28934963
No evidence given. According to Lithuanian authorities, all transit tariffs are decided in negotiations between two business entities - national or regional railways of Lithuania and Russia. Lithuania has never imposed any tariffs unilaterally. According to official sources, the transit flows are growing. The reason for redirecting the cargo to sea-ports must be other than excessive tariffs.
Repeating pro-Kremlin disinformation about George Soros. Petro Poroshenko submitted a draft law on the anti-corruption court on December 22, 2017. International institutions did indeed criticise the submitted draft bill for multiple reasons, most importantly for not following the Venice Commissions recommendations. Poroshenko stated he is open to having the draft amended during the second reading in Parliament. There is no proof that Ukrainians were against creating an anti-corruption court.