NATO forces’ withdrawal from Lithuania? Another disinfo attempt

On April 21, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry received a fake electronic message supposedly from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Someone apparently tried to mislead the military officials by falsely informing them of a decision to withdraw NATO forces from the country.

According to the primary investigation, analogous messages were sent to the Lithuanian media and a number of addresses at the main NATO headquarters in Brussels, the MoD press service reports.

“It is one in a series of attempts to turn the pandemic crisis into a security crisis. Fake news like this piece are aimed at sowing distrust in our Alliance partners and NATO unity,” Lithiania’s Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis said.

Over the past months, there have been consistent attempts to plant fake news stories amid the pandemic of COVID-19, the Strategic Communication Department reports. 807 cases of misleading information about the coronavirus outbreak in Russian, English and Lithuanian have been detected since February 1.

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The coronavirus crisis has not only not reduced security threats in Europe but created conditions for the threats to grow, Karoblis stressed.

“We cannot allow this crisis to undermine long-term defense plans of our countries, therefore cases like this one only demonstrate that we have to continue paying proper attention to strengthening defense, both, conventional and cyber capabilities,” the minister added.

Lithuanian analysts distinguish several groups of dominant narratives: according to one of them, the purpose of NATO has changed and NATO’s existence now endangers NATO allies. False news are spread about inappropriate behaviour of NATO troops in public places and protests of Lithuanian citizens against such behaviour. The narrative also claims that NATO finances nuclear weaponry instead of fighting COVID-19, which puts European, including Lithuanian, citizens at risk. NATO is also blamed for “anti-Russian” rhetoric.

Kremlin using disinfo to sow distrust and chaos amid COVID-19 pandemy – EEAS report, via