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New #DisinfoReview from the EU East StratCom Task Force
16 March 2017


*TRENDS OF THE WEEK*


Europe threatened by nuclear cloud
 

During the course of the last week we have seen several old recurring narratives in pro-Kremlin disinformation. One favourite is to focus on the alleged occurrence of a nuclear accident in Ukraine. While not forgetting or denying the real accident in Chernobyl in 1986, disinformation about other nuclear power plants accidents in Ukraine is something we have seen since the start of the conflict in Ukraine in 2014 e.g. here.
 
What was new this time around was that France was also targeted. As usual, a grain of truth is to be found in the middle of all of the disinformation: a small trace of radioactive Iodine-131 of unknown origin was indeed in January detected over large areas in Europe – but it was deemed by most as so small and without any health implications that it had no news value. Finnish authorities did report the trace and made clear that it posed no threat to health and also that it is not known where the trace originated – it could have come from a varied range of medicine producers or from a nuclear reactor.
 
Pro-Kremlin outlets, however, reported that European countries had accused Ukraine of being responsible for the leak - Russian state sponsored RIA Novosti even justified their report with a false quote from the Independent Barents Observer, who in their turn made clear that the attribution was false. The pattern was repeated by another outlet, claiming that several nuclear accidents had occurred over the past year in Ukraine and referring to Deutsche Welle as the source of the information. Deutsche Welle also refuted the claim, which was indeed subsequently removed, as reported by Stopfake. Meanwhile, a Czech outlet claimed that a nuclear accident in France was the reason for the (imaginary) "nuclear cloud" over Europe.

Repeating a lie makes it true?

 
Other old favourites in the pro-Kremlin disinformation catalogue that resurfaced this week were allegations that a laboratory in Georgia, that had previously been accused of spreading the H1N1 virus among other things, was now performing human experiments. The claim that Sweden imports black soil from Ukraine also re-emerged last week, a disinformation that started spreading in 2015.

And one of the most infamous disinformation examples – obfuscation over the tragic downing of flight MH17 – was once again brought up, with claims that Ukraine was to blame for the tragedy or that no one had concluded that the plane was wilfully shot down – despite the evidence presented by the Joint Investigative Team. Let us just remind you of the various disinformations that pro-Kremlin outlets have spread about MH17.
Image: Alamy. Importing soil to Sweden seems far fetched, according to The Federation of Swedish Farmers, as there is enough in the country already.
Click here for the FULL TABLE of recent stories repeating disinformation (.pdf).


*LATEST ANALYSES*

500 bloggers to attack Ukraine and the EU

One campaign, six messages, 500 bloggers: hackers have uncovered plans for a disinformation campaign aiming to convince Ukrainians that alignment with the EU is not a viable option for them.
Read more

Russians leaving the EU in droves?

“Disappointed with life abroad, Russians now return to Russia”. This headline went viral in Russian media last week. We started to investigate.
Read more

When silence speaks

Millions of Russian have seen a video with an anti-corruption investigation by opposition politician Alexey Navalny. How did pro-Kremlin media cover the story?
Read more

Homophobic hate speech on pro-Kremlin TV

Being gay is a mental disease, and same-sex marriage is not much different from someone marrying your dog. With this kind of messaging, pro-Kremlin media aim to paint an image of Russia as a safe haven for traditional values.
Read more


*LAST, BUT NOT LEAST*

Russia Today to fight fake news

Just before deadline, we stumbled over the below tweet from Russia Today (RT). Frankly speaking, we felt a bit bewildered and will consider looking into the story in more detail in next week's issue of the Disinformation Review. But until then, we'll keep it hanging here for reflection on the concept of Russia Today fighting fake news. (Image: RT on Twitter)
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Every Thursday, the Disinformation Review brings you the latest cases of news articles carrying key examples of how pro-Kremlin disinformation finds its way in international media, as well as news and analysis on the topic. The review focuses on key messages carried in international media which have been identified as providing a partial, distorted or false view or interpretation and/or spreading key pro-Kremlin messaging. It does not necessarily imply however that the outlet concerned is linked to the Kremlin or that it is pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. The Review is a compilation of 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, so information and opinions expressed there cannot be considered an official EU position. Any errors or misrepresentations should be reported to the East Stratcom Task Force for correction at disinforeview@euvsdisinfo.eu.
Copyright © 2017 European External Action Service, All rights reserved.


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