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New #DisinfoReview from the EU East StratCom Task Force
19 January 2017


*TRENDS OF THE WEEK*

Ukraine revisited


There was plenty of disinformation about Ukraine again during the last week. One "documentary" about Eastern Ukraine claimed that the Russian presence in the area was fabricated by the Western media. Russian state TV show Vremya Pokazhet focused on the relationship between Russia and Ukraine, and claimed that Russia had not seized Ukrainian territory, that Russia is not fighting in Ukraine and that Russia is in fact not present in Ukraine at all (http://bit.ly/2js6I3k). Of course, these claims have all been refuted before - even by President Putin himself (http://bit.ly/1kC94ch).

In another TV show, it was explained that Russia did indeed annex Crimea, but only to save the peninsula from impending destruction (http://bit.ly/2jh7cXG). The same disinformation was aired by Czech pro-Kremlin outlet Protiproud, which re-used the unsubstantiated allegations around genocide of Russian speakers (http://bit.ly/2iDpbsQ).

As we know, the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation took place in February-March 2014, almost two months before the pro-Russian protests in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts escalated into an armed separatist insurgency (http://bbc.in/1FfegIv). The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has found that the Russian Federation deployed members of its armed forces to gain control over parts of the Ukrainian territory without the consent of the Ukrainian Government (http://bit.ly/2ftv6iT).


Who cares about numbers?


This last week has seen massive disinformation directed towards the US enforcement of NATO's eastern flank, as we have already reported (http://bit.ly/2iMmGkG). In particular, the number of tanks deployed has been grossly exaggerated (87 becoming 3600 http://bit.ly/2j7N5Lv).

The US led Operation Atlantic Resolve is depicted as NATO aggression directed at Russia (http://bit.ly/2iOTESf) - in some websites it is even suggested that the conflict with Russia is intended to start before President-elect Trump's inauguration on Friday (http://bit.ly/2jMn1sE). This all fits with one of the most recurring narratives that pro-Kremlin disinformation uses about the West: aggressive, warmongering and encircling Russia (http://bit.ly/2i46HTd).   

This was followed by other disinformation on NATO, namely a fake photo claimed to portray dead civilians after a NATO bombing in Kosovo, (http://bit.ly/2iMxnna) which was in fact depicting dead civilians in Bosnia four years prior to the NATO intervention in Kosovo (http://reut.rs/2iKN0fS). The use of fake photos is a widely used tactic in the disinformation campaigns as we have reported before http://bit.ly/2hrUtDG.

NATO/the West was also said to be behind a disinformation campaign directed at Russia – not the other way around – which included disinformation on the downing of flight MH17 (http://bit.ly/2jqgeE8). Among other things, it was claimed that no evidence has been presented that the MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile and that the contrary evidence of a Spanish air controller,  "Carlos", was never followed up. Of course, as we have reported (http://bit.ly/2jqPAZu), the criminal investigation into the downing of MH17 concluded - based on solid evidence - that the missile that shot down MH17 was fired from a Russian vehicle that crossed into Ukraine and then back to Russia again afterwards: (http://bit.ly/2d980Nz). Regarding the mysterious "Carlos", the airport where he supposedly worked for several years has confirmed that at that time all of their air traffic controllers were Ukrainian, and that in any case they have never employed any Spaniard as an air controller or for any other task (http://bit.ly/1Vg9mEv). Sadly, the distortion of the MH17 tragedy for disinformation purposes continues unashamedly (http://bit.ly/2k3lY3N).


Click here for the FULL TABLE (.pdf) of disinformation pieces collected for the Disinformation Review issue No 54.


*LATEST ANALYSES*

A masterclass in disinformation

Last week saw a near perfect example of how disinformation can spread. The story about military reinforcement in Europe has an element of truth mixed up with false information, all to fit into an often repeated pro-Kremlin narrative.
Read more

"Waiting for the tractor that will come and save them"

Ahead of the inauguration of Donald Trump's presidency tomorrow, Russian media convey great expectations.
Read more

Debunking in prime time

The most popular TV channel in Latvia has started 2017 with a new Sunday evening show to uncover disinformation. This is the first time that a regular TV show about disinformation is offered in a prime time TV slot.
Read more

Be afraid!

A recent poll shows that 85% of Russians think that the surrounding world is afraid of Russia. While this might indeed be the case, the more interesting point is that 75% believe that this is good.
Read more

Did the Americans actually land on the moon?

Sputnik, the Russian government-owned news service, informed us last week that a group of Russian engineers and space enthusiasts aim to develop and launch a satellite to check whether the celebrated moon landing actually took place.
Read more


*LAST, BUT NOT LEAST*

Snowmen are racist?

Disinformation continues to surprise us. The Bulgarian Times recently published an article claiming that the EU plans to prohibit snowmen. This is, so we read, motivated by the impression that building white snowmen would promote the sole superiority of the white race and hurt the feelings of non-white ethnicities. Allegedly, a draft law was tabled in the European Parliament which foresees that those who don’t at least build two snowmen, a white and a yellowish one, will be fined €5000. The story quotes MEP Marek Duda, “a conservative catholic”, saying: “This is the final dissolution of the European Union.”
We had a hard time finding that MEP in the records of the European Parliament. Needless to say that he is as fictitious as the proposal.
East StratCom Task Force
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Every Thursday, the Disinformation Review brings you the latest cases of pro-Kremlin disinformation as well as news and analysis on the topic. It features a compilation of disinformation cases from the East StratCom Task Force's wide network of contributors and therefore cannot be considered an official EU position. Likewise, the news articles are based on the analysis of the East StratCom Task Force, therefore information and opinions expressed there cannot be considered an official EU position.
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