Russian disinformation on the war in Ukraine crosses all red lines

Russian disinformation on the war in Ukraine crosses all red lines
Credit: Stratcom, EU

Never has the saying that the first casualty of war is the truth been truer than in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Since the very start of the war, before and during its military invasion of Ukraine, the Russian leadership has been engaged in a disinformation campaign in media and official statements to justify its unprovoked attack on Ukraine and its people. A low water mark was reached this week when Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov claimed that even “Hitler had Jewish blood.”

The claim was made in an interview with Italian media. “So what if Zelensky is Jewish?” he said, referring to the Ukrainian president. “The fact does not negate the Nazi elements in Ukraine. I believe that also Hitler had Jewish blood. The wise Jewish people said that the most ardent antisemites are Jewish.”

Russia has used the claim that its invasion aims at demilitarisation and de-Nazification of Ukraine as a pretext to invade a neighboring country that it also says is a brother country. In fact it uses the Nazi label to smear everyone it considers as its enemy and who opposes its policy in Ukraine. According to Lavrov, the Ukrainian president could promote peace if he stopped giving “criminal instructions” to his “Nazi” soldiers.

According to a disinformation review on Thursday morning issued by the EU East Stratcom Task Force, a task force set up by the European External Action Service (EEAS), such claims aiming to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are not just factually false. “They trivialise the Holocaust, fuel anti-Semitism and corrode collective historical memory.”

Vice-president Margaritis Schinas tweeted on Monday that the comments by Lavrov “perpetuate the outrageous narrative on ‘denazification” of Ukraine, they are factually false, and distort and trivialise the Holocaust - the genocide of 6 million Jews. Any attempt to turn the victims of the Shoah into perpetrators is unacceptable."

The Russian Foreign Minister’s remarks drew also heavy criticism across the political spectrum in Israel which until now has been sitting on its fences in condemning Russia’s aggression and sending military equipment to help Ukraine defend itself. First to condemn him was Israeli’s foreign minister Yair Lapid who called the remarks “unforgivable, outrageous and a historical mistake.”

On Tuesday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who normally chooses his words carefully, went on the offensive. “During a week when we are remembering the Holocaust, of all weeks, the Russian foreign minister chooses to spread lies, terrible lies, which smell of antisemitism. I expect him to retract his words and apologise.”

Far from being an accidental slip of the tongue, Lavrov’s claims are a part of deliberate and repeated attempts to revise history for political ends, according to Stratcom.  It is also an overture to international fringe movements and fans of (antisemitic) conspiracy theories.

The Brussels Times

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