On 5 December, the International Olympic Committee banned Russia from the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang 2018. The reason was the systemic manipulation of anti-doping rules in Russia during the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi three years ago. Individual athletes from Russia may still compete under the Olympic Flag.
The first reaction of the disinformation campaign was targeted for the home audience in Russia, in order to round up people to defend the besieged fortress and prevent any inner criticism or demands towards the authorities.
Talking about the Olympics in militaristic terms was the way to get the message through. The Winter Olympics ban “is a war against Russia”, we learned, as well as that “the Olympics have never been about sport, but war”. The claim about “the IOC humiliating Russia” was repeatedly used on Russian state TV news programmes. The individual athletes who would even consider taking part in the Olympics not under the Russian flag were framed as “unpatriotic” and a conspiracy was spread that this is an operation prepared by the West to discredit Russia ahead of presidential elections in 2018.
The Disinformation campaign’s next step was to appeal to the international audience. Here, the main line was to discredit the investigation of Russia’s state supported doping system with the claim that the Olympic ban is not about sport or doping, but about Russophobic Western elites who lobby for an “endless war”.
The war rhetoric couldn’t be further from the idea of the Olympics as a way to build ”a peaceful and better world through sport”, as the relevant resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly states. And – as is quite usual with the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign – it also couldn’t be further from the actual facts. The tradition of “the Olympic Truce” is in fact almost three thousand years old.
“Gastronomical genocide in Greece” – no, the EU is not banning kebabs
The ‘geniuses’ from the European Parliament and the European Commission are seriously considering banning both gyros and kebabs in the country which is called ‘the cradle of civilisation’, the Serbian edition of Sputnik wrote in an article dubbed ‘The Greek scenario for Serbia’. Serbia should hence consider well whether it will enter into marriage with the EU out of love or out of interest. In any case, Sputnik writes, it would be as if a victim marries his or her rapist, since the oriental influences in the Serbian cuisine originate from Greece, which is now threatened by a ‘gastronomic genocide’. Genocide is a recurring theme in the pro-Kremlin media; most recently recognised in its ‘linguistic’ form in Latvia, but seldom does it correspond to its actual definition.
This is not the first time that pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets develop this type of claim. In 2016, traditional European cuisine was described to be ‘under attack of Muslim citizens’.
Of course, the EU is not banning kebabs. The disinformation was spread as the European Parliament’s Health Committee raised concerns about the impacts of phosphates that are used as food additives.
It is also hard to see why Serbia would be suffering from Stockholm syndrome as a victim of an EU rapist, as Sputnik suggested. Serbia has stated that its strategic goal is EU accession, and Serbia is guaranteed the status of an EU candidate country.
No white phosphorous in Ukraine
On 9 December, French Twitter users were informed that the Ukrainian army had supposedly shelled a water-treatment facility in Ukraine’s rebel-controlled eastern city of Donetsk with white phosphorous.
The claim, has, however, been directly disproved by the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine.
On 8 December, an SMM camera at the Donetsk water-treatment facility did indeed record ceasefire violations. But the OSCE said in its daily report that the projectiles flew from east to west, not west to east. The OSCE also made no mention at all of white phosphorus.