Brussels (dpa) – Slander, propaganda, lies: Germany is at the center of disinformation campaigns from Russia following an EU investigation.
“No other EU member state has been more violently attacked than Germany,” says a report published by the European External Action Service (EEAS) in Brussels on Tuesday. It speaks of both systematic campaigns at the political level and campaigns of media close to the Kremlin.
The Moscow government described the allegations as “ridiculous,” but did not immediately dismiss them. The State Department previously accused the West of engaging in “propaganda of the worst kind”.
Germany has been the target of attacks by Russian media since late 2015, according to the EU report. In comparison, over 300 cases were collected for France, over 170 for Italy and only 40 for Spain. For this purpose, a special unit of the EEAS analyzed publicly available media reports and statements. “The Kremlin is creating an intellectual image of Germany in which there are some sensible voices in a chorus of irrational” Russophobia, “the report said.
Russia has long waged a propaganda war with the West. Relations between the EU and Russia had recently deteriorated significantly. One reason for this is the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexej Navalny, who is now imprisoned in Russia. In early February, EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell unsuccessfully demanded his release in Moscow. A new campaign began a few days later, the report said.
Dealing with Navalny and his wife Julia Navalnaya has been cited as an example of misinformation. The two are repeatedly referred to as “puppets” by Western intelligence agencies who receive instructions from agents to harm Russia. The head of the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, has also claimed that Navalny is cooperating with US intelligence, the CIA, which the opposition firmly rejects. There is no proof.
But Russian state propaganda made up new stories. The propagandist Vladimir Solovyov mentioned in the EU report recently said that Julia Navalnaya must have flew to Germany to receive instructions that could not be given to her over the phone. On Russian portals near the Kremlin it was also reported that Navalnaya was a German citizen. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin denied it. Navalnaya also dismissed the reports.
Russian media also suggests that Russians and Christians in Germany are being oppressed and that Russian children are being stolen and given to pedophiles, the report said. Since the beginning of February, the story of a Russian family has been exploited in Berlin, whose three children have been detained by the authorities because their well-being was at risk. A website described the incident as the “answer to Navalny”.
The EU report sees a “duplicity” of Russia. The Kremlin and the State Department expressed their willingness to talk and at the same time allowed such attacks. This would create uncertainty and disagreement, and Russian officials would be given more room for maneuver.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Sakharov, mentioned in the EU report with a verbal attack on Germany herself, described the allegations as “ludicrous”. “It is of course very funny to hear the accusations about possible disinformation campaigns, because we ourselves cannot even deal with comments on incorrect claims, for example from Berlin.”
Sakharov was referring to a section on the website of the Moscow Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which in turn mentions “false reports” by Western media about Russia. There are many examples out there of Russia being aggressively attacked with “the worst kind of propaganda”.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas (SPD) wants to respond to the Russian approach with a “positive agenda”. The current Germany year in Russia should, among other things, help prevent false information about Germany from ending up on fertile soil, Maas said in Berlin. Maas said of the EU report: “We are not surprised.” The attacks were intended to undermine confidence in democratic institutions and democracy as a whole.