March 23, 2022 | Washington Post

Debunked TikTok video is weaponised by Kremlin propaganda to instill fear in Russians everywhere

Analysis by Julia Smirnova was featured by the Washington Post, looking at a viral TikTok video spreading false information about violence directed at Russians in Germany– only the latest in the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign.

In a 90-second video uploaded to TikTok, a woman appeals to “Russian-speaking Germany” telling the story of a Russian-speaking boy beaten to death at a train station in Euskirchen, Germany. The purported attackers were Ukrainian refugees, according to the source. German police debunked the claims and said it was probably “intended to stir up hatred–” possibly with the aim of sowing seeds of fear in Germany’s Russian-speaking population of around 1.2 million people.

Shortly after this video reached viral status, the author uploaded an apology video claiming that she had been misled and that the story was false. However, Julia’s research showed that the apology was not picked up in the pro-Kremlin media ecosystem, while the initial video was shared extensively by Telegram channels in favour of Russia’s invasion.

Julia also noted that while this story was circulating, another uncorroborated claim was making the rounds about an elderly Russian man, and a woman and her son being attacked by Ukrainian refugees in Latvia.

Alongside Kremlin propaganda that aims to justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine, disinformation is circulating on TikTok and Telegram about the supposed violence Russians are experiencing in Europe.

“The impression left by the videos is that Russians abroad, especially in European countries, are in danger,” Julia told the Washington Post.

“This is a message Russian state media and pro-Kremlin media have been sending to Russians for years.”

Julia Smirnova is an Analyst at ISD and ISD Germany, focusing on the proliferation of disinformation, conspiracy myths, hate speech and extremist ideologies online.

Russia Ukraine war banner