The emails reached the members of the NSGK on March 28. The supposedly concerned author asked the members of parliament why the NSGK is “unable to stop the fakes”. In this case fakes being false news.
An odd email for members of Seimas
The address the email was sent from raised suspicions immediately. The ending of the email address would suggest that it is from Ukraine, meanwhile the author signs as “labusen”. This is very much reminiscent of the term “labusy”, derogatory jargon used by Russian nationalists to refer to Lithuanians. Furthermore the author contributed only one sentence of their own, written full of mistakes. Beyond that a seemingly innocent text is quoted from the kleinlitauen.wordpress.com blog which was created in 2016.
The blog post stresses that the Lithuanian government is actively firing staff with links to Russia, highlighting the case of Mindaugas Bastys who was forced to resign due to a State Security Department report which accused him of suspect links with Russian representatives.
It moves on to question the validity of the Russian threat to the country and highlights that supposedly no-one reviews the German troops sent to Lithuania and that most of them are actually loyal to Russia, with some being children of Russian immigrants. It also presents supposedly authentic pictures where Lt. Col. Huber poses in the Moscow Red Square and the Kubinka tank museum.
Disseminating clear lies
It is notable that the imagery, supposedly shared by Lt. Col. Huber’s wife Melanie Huber, portraying C. Huber in Russia, posing in the Red Square and Kubinka tank museum can easily be discerned to be fake. Lt. Col. Huber’s face has been placed over a licensed photo which originally contains European Space Agency astronaut from France Thomas Pesquet. The original image can be found with a quick web search.
It turns out that while the profile used to base the montage on does exist, the real Melanie Huber is apparently married to a completely different individual whose surname matches the German officer’s.
Nevertheless the article, provocatively named “German battalion leader in Lithuania – a Russian agent” has been spreading in the public, appearing in several Lithuanian forums related to military affairs. Both were posted from profiles registered on March 28.
Facebook is no exception. Pro-Russian and Anti-Western figures have been spreading the “facts” about the German officer’s links to Russia in seemingly innocent Facebook groups such as Palanga, Pagėgių krašto turgelis or “Boston LT – UK (Reklama – Skelbimai – Paslaugos)”, as well as a number of groups which actively disseminate Russian propaganda such as “LDiena.lt – Lietuvos Diena – naujienos, nuomonės, komentarai“ and “Gimtojo Krašto Judėjimas: Už Lietuvą be JAV, ES, NATO imperijos!“
In all these cases the kleinlitauen.wordpress.com blog is referred to. The fraudulent article itself was also released on March 28, with Russian translations of it also appearing on the same day and beginning to spread in the Russian information sphere.
Targeted information attacks
What is even more interesting is that the article appearing on March 28 places it just a day before the 13th anniversary of Lithuania’s accession to NATO. And this is not a singular case.
“This is yet another attempt, perhaps more refined, to discredit the German forces presence in Lithuania. It is yet another example of a Russian information attack. It is just very laudable that Lithuanian institutions are reacting adequately and the information reaches the Lithuanian public sphere already analysed and deconstructed,” Laurynas Kasčiūnas, a member of the NSGK, said.
Prior to February 16 the Seimas also passed two pieces of legislation of great importance to the country and its future – banning violence against children and ratifying an agreement on the status of US troops in Lithuania. Without the second piece of legislation it would be far more difficult to deploy the troops in the country’s military bases.
On the same day the Seimas speaker received an email that a fifteen year old orphan from a Jonava region orphanage was surrounded on her way back from school and raped by drunk German troops in uniform. This case was interesting in that the websites distributing false information also manufactured imagery which pretended the news had been shared on major web portals such as Kauno Diena and Bernardinai.lt.
This is similar to stories that have been spread in Berlin and Sloviansk, where children were also supposedly victimised. In Berlin it was supposedly a girl named Lisa who had been defiled, while in Sloviansk supposedly Ukrainians crucified a boy.
Similar false news keep surfacing in Lithuania prior to key meetings and national holidays. For example prior to the Warsaw NATO summit meeting last year, false information was released that supposedly the head of the military, General Jonas Vytautas Žukas stated that NATO is not defence, but a threat.
Last September during the Flaming Thunder military exercises false news was also disseminated that US artillery crews are firing depleted uranium rounds during the exercises.
Supposedly the ammunition had “God bless you, Russia” engraved on them. All of this information was false, but it was actively shared by hundreds of individuals on Facebook.
Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis states that the claims regarding the German officer is not the first and certainly not the last such provocation and that he hopes for solidarity from journalists and the press in the face of it.