The Kremlin’s propaganda still targets Poland and the Western countries
This year's Independence March in Warsaw was not anti-Ukrainian as its main slogan was “Poland is not yet lost” (which is a phrase from Poland’s national anthem). The ongoing war in Ukraine continues to be one of the main topics of Russian propaganda. Russia replaces the lack of military successes with numerous fake-news spread mainly via social media. It is true that a group of participants of the Independence March carried anti-Ukrainian banners, so Russian propaganda eagerly exploited this.
In doing so, it overlooked the fact that the event also included support for Ukraine and condemnation of Moscow's aggression.
Polish media covering the march reported that "several banners" featuring anti-Ukrainian slogans were on view and wrote about the criticism that representatives of the alt-right Confederation party faced after the showing of these banners. On the other hand, there were reports of banners showing support for Ukraine and of participants hanging a puppet of Vladimir Putin from the Poniatowski Bridge in Warsaw.
FakeHunter fact-checked Russian-language article with the title: “A huge demonstration against Brussels and Kiev took place in Warsaw”. The manipulation was primarily the title, as the article itself is a coverage of the Independence March and there was no explicit acknowledgement that the demonstration was predominantly anti-Ukrainian in nature.
The former president of the Independence March association, Robert Bąkiewicz, has spoken out as a supporter of Polish aid to Ukraine fighting Russia. Although there was a dispute and a change in the association's leadership in 2023, there is no information that this had any impact on the organisers' attitude towards Ukraine, Ukrainians and their war with Russia.
Polish truckers are blocking Ukraine border crossings
Another topic used by Russian propaganda is a protest of Polish truckers. The protest on the border with Ukraine has been ongoing since 6 November 2023. The drivers have blocked passage through three border crossings: in Dorohusk, Hrebenne and Korczowa. Hauliers are protesting because of the European Union's overly liberal policy towards Ukrainian transport companies, which—as they claim—distorts competition. The protesters say that because of Ukrainian hauliers, the market has started to shrink dramatically for entities registered in the EU, including Poland.
FakeHunter fact-checked a post published on 20 November on X (formerly Twitter). The author wrote: "Ukraine: a truck with Polish plates was set on fire. This is another such incident over the past week. Polish drivers and transport fleet are repeatedly attacked by local hauliers and local people". The author also attached a photo of the almost completely burnt but still burning vehicle. In fact, the picture was taken in Germany. Nor was the situation in any way related to the protest of Polish hauliers at the border with Ukraine, which has been ongoing for some time.
Thanks to reverse image search tools, it was easy to determine that the photo was taken six years ago and it was a Polish truck that was totally burnt out after an accident on a German motorway. The tragic incident of 18 January 2017 was described by, among others, the trans.info.pl portal. According to the website, the Polish Scania truck caught fire after tyre damage. The 32-year-old driver managed to pull over into the emergency lane and partially onto an embankment and left the already burning cab. A few seconds later, the flames had already engulfed the entire vehicle. The man was not injured.
Although the situation at the border with Ukraine is tense, contrary to what the author of the fact-checked post claimed, there have been no tragic incidents there. The media reported only two dangerous incidents: stones being thrown at one of the trucks and a semi-trailer with Polish plates was set on fire.
The church of St Josaphat in Lublin
A post published on X (formerly Twitter) and reported for fact-checking implied that Poland is giving away a church built by Poles to Ukrainians. The author also attached a screenshot of an article published on Kresy.pl about the donation of a Lublin temple for the pastoral needs of a Greek Catholic parish. The article did not confirm what the post’s author wrote but he manipulated it by posting only a partial print screen with the article’s title “Ukrainian Greek Catholics got the Church of St. Jozefat in Lublin”, which is not true.
According to the Polish Catholic News Agency, on the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of St Josaphat Kuncewicz and the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the Greek Catholic parish in Lublin, a Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Church of St Josaphat in Lublin on 16 November 2023. Jozafat Divine Liturgy was presided by Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Metropolitan of Lublin Archbishop Stanislaw Budzik, and Metropolitan of Przemysl-Warsaw Archbishop Eugeniusz Popovich. Concelebrating were auxiliary bishops of the Lublin archdiocese and dozens of priests of the Byzantine-Ukrainian and Latin rites. The temple at 3 Zielona Street was officially lent for the pastoral needs of the Lublin Greek Catholic parish, whose pastor is Priest Miter Stefan Batruch.
The temple was built in 1790 based on the permission granted to Greek merchants by King Stanislaus August Poniatowski in 1786. At the time, the church belonged to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Catholics took over the building in 1922.
Biden and Zelensky monument in Kiev
The main target of Russian propaganda is, of course, Ukraine itself. The Kremlin is trying to destroy Ukraine's relations with the West, including above all the United States, one of the main military supporters of Ukraine. An example of propaganda fake-news is the claim that the Pushkin monument will be a monument in honour of the current presidents of the USA and Ukraine.
FakeHunter fact-checked a post published on 13 November on X. The author wrote: "It was decided in Kiev that a Biden monument should be built to replace the Pushkin monument. The monument, named 'Friends Forever', depicts Biden shaking hands with Zelensky (original spelling - editor's note)." Also, a sketch of the new monument that is supposed to be erected in Pushkin’s place was attached. This is fake news.
There is no mention in the Ukrainian media of the alleged initiative to erect a monument in Kiev entitled ‘Friends Forever’ in honour of Joe Biden and Vlodymyr Zelensky. It proved impossible to find any Ukrainian publication with the alleged design of the monument by using the reverse image search, which proves that the picture was fabricated for the purposes of the fact-checked post.
The inspiration for the fake news was undoubtedly a decision taken by the Ukrainian government on 10 November 2023. It decided to remove some monuments from the State Register of Immovable Monuments of Ukraine, including the one of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin (on Berestey Prospect in Kiev), but also other monuments to him in Zhytomyr, Kharkiv and Odessa.
In Ukraine, following Russia’s invasion of the country last year, an intense derussification of public space was begun. Monuments to Russian heroes are being toppled, and their names are disappearing from squares and streets. Nor has derussification spared the classics of Russian literature, most notably Alexander Pushkin, whose work is regarded as anti-Ukrainian and he himself as a supporter of Russian imperialism. The poet, who served as a camryunker (high court official) of Tsar Nicholas I, was a proponent of the thesis that “the Russian empire expanded so rapidly because of its moral influence, and not the force of arms”.
The process of toppling Pushkin’s monuments, which has already become known in Ukraine as 'Pushkinopad', began spontaneously and from the bottom up. In October 2022, the people of Kiev knocked down the oldest bust of Pushkin in the Ukrainian capital on Glory Square. The destroyed monument was erected in 1899 to mark the 100th anniversary of the poet's death. Pushkin busts in Chernihiv, Dnipro, Ternopil and Kharkov suffered a similar fate.
There are still several monuments, bas-reliefs and plaques commemorating the Russian writer in Kiev, including the most famous one from 1962, set up at the entrance to the park also named after him. And it is this monument that has been removed from the register of monuments, paving the way for its legal dismantling. Plans by the Ukrainian authorities on how to develop the site are not yet known.
American casualties in Ukraine
There are several Americans fighting the Putin regime as volunteers. Russian propaganda machine spreads fake news concerning a number of American casualties, hoping it will result in protests against American support for Ukraine.
According to Matthew VanDyke, founder of Sons of Liberty International (SOLI), there have been between five and 10 deaths of Americans. His statement was immediately widely quoted by Russian websites and social media, except that Russian propaganda turned 5-10 dead into 510 dead.
VanDyke is from Baltimore, USA and was a documentary filmmaker. In 2011, he joined the rebels fighting the Gaddafi regime in Libya. He was captured and sent to a Libyan prison from which he escaped. In 2014, his friends, journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, were brutally murdered by ISIS members. This experience prompted VanDyke to set up SOLI—an organisation training vulnerable populations and enabling them to defend themselves against terrorist and insurgent groups.
FakeHunter fact-checked a post that was published on X (formerly Twitter) on 7 November. Its author wrote: “American mercenary, Matthew Vandyke reported that 510 of his compatriots were killed and several hundred Americans wounded during fighting in Ukraine.” There was also a photo showing two soldiers and a dozen coffins covered with American flags aboard a transport plane.
Matthiew VanDyke's statement was manipulated and the photo used to reinforce the message is nearly 20 years old. It is not connected to the Russian-Ukrainian war. On 2 November 2023, an interview with Matthiew VanDyke was published by the ‘Judge Napolitano - Judging Freedom’ channel on YouTube. Asked by the presenter how many Americans had died fighting Russia in Ukraine, he replied that according to his estimate there were between 5 and 10 casualties. The photo used by the post’s author was a photo of coffins of American soldiers killed in Iraq. It was repeatedly published in the spring of 2004.
According to Andy Carvin, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, the Kremlin targets everyone from Ukrainian citizens to right-wing groups in the US and Europe. He told Time magazine that “the Kremlin is likely to continue to use all techniques to influence ongoing debates about whether to continue to supply Ukraine with weapons and funding.”
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