Russian social media accounts have been caught spreading lies about Polish and Ukrainian groups. According to several news outlets, Russian officials claim that Polish employers must denounce Ukrainians of military age to forcibly be sent to the front, as Stanisław Żaryn, the government plenipotentiary for the security of the information domain security of the Republic of Poland, informed on social media.
Kremlin Propaganda Targets Poland
The Polish official cited that Russia has been continuing its disinformation operation against Poland and other allies of Ukraine. “The Kremlin is spreading lies about alleged forced mobilizations of Ukrainians,” he said.
Stanisław Żaryn believes that there is an ongoing forced repatriation of Ukrainians in Poland to send them to the front. In his opinion, Russian official statements are further elements of the disinformation campaign by the Russian special services.
He noted that this operation aims to destabilize, sow information chaos and create hostility between Ukrainians and the societies of their host countries. The Polish official also stated that Russia was conducting a similar disinformation campaign in other European countries and recently in the U.K.
Disinformation, or the New War
The new hashtag #niemojawojna (not my war) fueled social media in Poland. Polish media analyst Anna Mierzynska said, during a radio program on TOK FM, that this hashtag is part of a wider campaign that will intensify before the Polish general elections that will take place later this year. According to Mierzynska, this is because the state has not made enough efforts to prevent it. “We are defenseless,” Mierzynska said.
For media analysts, this new “anti-war” propaganda may directly affect the elections outcomes, especially when the Polish general election will take place later this year, with the ruling Law and Justice party holding a narrowing lead in opinion polls.
Anna Mierzynska, also a disinformation expert and author of the book “The Destructive Effect. How disinformation affects our lives,” drew attention to the growing visibility of this campaign “suspected of being a disinformation campaign service for the Russian interests.”
“From the Kremlin's point of view, these are very important activities. If doubt is sown, there will be fewer people supporting politicians who support Ukraine. We are in the pre-election period, and this influence will intensify before the elections,” said Mierzynska.
Polish news outlets reported that the slogan “niemywojna” (not my war) has also been seen on banners at football stadiums. And for the disinformation analyst quoted in several Polish media, this campaign contains pro-Russian content blaming the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the United States and suggesting that Poland intends to send its troops into Ukraine.
“Russian-backed media and bots spread continuous and repetitive propaganda, which mixes partial truths with outright fiction,” Rupert Cocke, an investigative journalist who blogs about conspiracy theories at Sharpen Your Axe, told the Emerging Europe website.
Earlier, the New York Times wrote that Russian GRU intelligence services were involved in “a kind of information laundering,” creating disinformation and spreading it first using lesser-known websites before it gets republished by other more popular Western websites with pro-Russian leanings to amplify the original disinformation without evidence of direct manipulations or connections.
“There is no direct media involvement and no deliberate local strategy. This works indirectly, via a coincidence of narratives, predominance of anti-democratic discourse, and seeking to create narratives that play on pre-existing fears and prejudices,” cited Rumena Filipova, a research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Democracy.
According to Emerging Europe, Russia continued these disinformation campaigns relying on local supporters to promote the Russian narrative, including funding political movements and buying off journalists. Meanwhile, research by the Atlantic Council found that the most common story backed by pro-Russian media paints Russia as a victim and Ukraine as an aggressor.