Migration Crisis is Used to Target Poland and Lithuania With Disinformation

With the situation at the Polish and Lithuanian borders and Belarus intensifying daily, research by shows that the Belarusian state forges false stories to accuse its neighbours of demonstrating offensive capabilities at the border and allegedly carrying out special operations to relocate migrants to Western Europe.

Throughout October 2021, analysts looked through 2,797 content pieces from migrant-linked Facebook groups, online media outlets of the origin countries of the migrants and regional hostile media sources. Of these, 872 articles were false and misleading, most of them (714 items or 81.6%) were published in sources linked to the Kremlin or the Belarusian regime.
According to Senior Analyst from Laima Venclauskienė, in October, Lithuania and Poland were targeted with two disinformation campaigns which were molded on the same, repetitive pattern.
On October 18, Alexander Lukashenko forged a story that Poland and Lithuania are carrying out special operations to establish channels for transporting migrants to Germany and France.
“This statement was republished by Belarusian state-related media (27 articles about this one topic in a day) and was built upon the claims from the beginning of the month that Lithuania is purposefully and consistently transferring refugees from its territory to other EU countries, imitating migrant escapes,” says Ms. Venclauskienė.
The second targeted disinformation attack started on October 26, when Lukashenko alleged that the neighboring countries “moved Leopard tanks towards our border” and “might start a little war.”
This statement about the “buildup” of forces was based on an announcement made by Poland about adding 2,500 more servicemen to the border in response to the migrant crisis.
“This was a defensive measure taken by Warsaw. However, Lukashenko presented it as offensive – as if Poland is getting ready to attack not only Belarus, but the Union State as a whole,” says the Ms Venclauskienė. This story was again amplified by pro-Kremlin media (37 articles in a day).
“Both campaigns were followed by videos of migrants accusing Lithuanian border patrol guards being violent, stealing money from the migrants, and smashing their phones. These videos spread not only through Facebook groups but also through hostile news websites, such as pro-Kremlin news portal and Russian state-owned news agency TASS,” says Ms Venclauskienė.
The analysis has shown that RIA Novosti, a part of Russia’s state funded media group Rossiya Segodnya, which controls the Sputnik network amongst others, reached the widest audience.
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