Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Twisting the WWII narrative – Disinformation Review

New #DisinfoReview from the EU East StratCom Task Force
18 May 2017


Twisting the WWII narrative

This last week there were many events across Europe to mark the end of World War II. In pro-Kremlin outlets, significant time was spent on twisting the narrative.

Several TV shows on state TV in Russia focused on the theme. One, with the headline “For whom is the 9th of May a holiday?”, suggested that those who do not celebrate the day are taking the first step towards fascism. (Of course, the European Union was actually created out of the peace that followed the end of WWII and celebrates Europe Day on the 9th of May; and many European countries recognise the 8th of May, not the 9th, as the day on which the war in Europe ended for them).

“In the now” – which is Russia Today’s (RT’s) youth channel on youtube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (although this is not evident at first glance) – aired a video called “Who won the WWII” with an American woman wearing a St George ribbon, comparing the numbers of casualties as proof that it was actually the USSR who should get the credit. On the site, several other videos propagate the pro-Kremlin narrative, on for example Syria. As theWashington Post explains, the orange-and-black St George ribbon was a 2005 PR campaign at Russia’s RIA Novosti state-run news agency, and it has become one of the most successful stories in Russia’s search for unifying symbols under President Putin. In Ukraine, though, it is closely linked to pro-Russian separatists and Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

Another show on Russian state TV focused on Ukraine and the celebration of victory day there. It claimed that the USSR singlehandedly fought the Nazi regime, whereas the European countries either fought with Hitler or surrendered to him. It was also stated that street protests during the Victory day in Ukraine showed that the country is run by a Nazi regime. In fact, these protests occurred due to the use of the afore-mentioned St George ribbon and its sensitivity in Ukraine.

You definitely heard it before

The Baltic countries were also subject to twisted historical facts this week in pro-Kremlin disinformation. The idea that the countries were better off economically during the Soviet times was featured again, as was the message that Russia could demand back the investments it had made in these countries during Soviet times, thereby destroying their economies (this has been debunked before).

In fact, over this last week we saw several such re-occurring narratives once again in pro-Kremlin disinformation.  We heard that the Georgian people have lost their values due to Euro-Atlantic integration, for example. And that Christian traditions in Georgia might be banned by neighbouring countries. These are narratives we have heard beforeseveral times.

“Morally deplorable Europe” was also portrayed in a Czech outlet and while we learnt in one state Russian TV show that the EU is occupying Ukraine, we heard in another that the EU could now expect hordes of Nazis flowing into the streets of European cities, due to visa liberalisation with Ukraine.

Both Ukraine and the West were accused of being built up solely on Russophobia. It was also again claimed that the EU will drain Ukraine of its fertile lands and forests, A similar disinformation story has circulated already for a couple of years about Sweden and Ukraine. As we have stated before, repeating an untruth does not make it true.

This is how Izborsk illustrates the disinformation that Russophobia is a “fundamental and inalienable part of Western identity”. We’ve heard it before. (Image: Izborsk)
Click here for the FULL TABLE of recent stories repeating disinformation (.pdf).
Next Thursday, 25 May, is a public holiday in Belgium. Therefore, the next Disinformation Review will be published on 1 June.


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Quiz time!

Fake news can fun. This week, the EU vs Disinformation Facebook page challenged its followers to find the fake fake story, asking: “Four of these five stories are fakes from pro-Kremlin media. One of them was invented by us. Which one is the FAKE fake that we made up?”

The quiz spurred a variety of comments with users saying, for example:
“#3 – my money is on the electromagnetic bs”;
“Dude it has to be the plague one”;
“I’m going to guess the plague one. It’s the least far-fetched one, and doesn’t imply some kind of European conspiracy”.
One user was perhaps inspired by the IDAHOT day yesterday when he commented: “Must be the one about Queen Elizabeth. As far as Kremlin media go there’s just one queen and her name is Dmitry”.

Many commenters managed to provide the correct answer by checking against the information provided in last week’s Disinformation Review.

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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
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