Russia accused of using German anti-war protests to spread propaganda – Bloomberg

Russian military intelligence has used marginal peace rallies in Germany as part of a large-scale operation to manipulate public opinion and undermine support for Ukraine, according to European government officials and papers seen by Bloomberg News.

Alternative Kinder Zukunft (AKiZ) and its “Children of War” picture project are among the organizations targeted by the Russian GRU’s psychological warfare unit 54777, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity with Bloomberg.

AKiZ’s efforts in Germany

The photo display opened in Cologne in June 2022, a few months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, and its website states that it attempts to call attention to the sufferings of children in conflict zones. The organizers toured with this exhibition in places such as Hamburg, Berlin, and Frankfurt, as well as France, Spain, Italy, and Belgium.

According to European sources, AKiZ utilizes that forum to advocate against NATO and to demand that military deliveries to Ukraine be halted. It arranged or participated in protests and peace rallies in various German cities.

While most of AKiZ’s peace marches have received little attention in German media outlets, they have been reported by many Russian propaganda outlets, including ANNA News, which European officials claim is associated with Russia’s GRU military intelligence.

In addition to posting content about the rallies in Germany and the war in Ukraine, the AKiZ website and TikTok channel also pushed short videos “dedicated to the memory of child victims” who were allegedly murdered by Ukrainian operations in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas.

‘Peace rallies’ demanding to halt weapons supply to Ukraine

As we reported in 2022 and 2023, in the context of Germany’s unprecedented support for military aid to Ukraine and consensus on the Russia-Ukraine war within the German government, pro-Kremlin forces, still are active in Germany, tried to stop weapons supply to Ukraine and leveraged peace rallies for this.

In opposition to massive rallies supporting Ukraine across Germany and the world on the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale war aggression against Ukraine, pro-Russian activists organized a protest called “Stand up for Peace!” in Berlin. 

Its main goal is to demand the German government stop supplying weapons to Ukraine. The demonstrators held banners with slogans ‘Negotiate, not escalate’, ‘Not our war’ and ‘Stop NATO’ (as if it was NATO who invaded Ukraine, not Russia).

However, halting the weapons supply to Ukraine will not stop the war. There is only one solution to stop the war – Russian troops must leave the Ukrainian lands, stop violating international law, and stop terrorist-style missile strikes on Ukrainian cities. Ukraine needs weapons to defend itself against Russian missile strikes and military assaults in the east. 

Increasing threat from Russian disinformation and influence operations

With European Parliament elections approaching in June, officials across Europe warn of an increasing threat from Russian disinformation and influence operations aimed at sowing skepticism in attempts to help Ukraine’s defense. Germany is a notable target because it is Kyiv’s largest military and funding partner in the West.

Moscow has recently expanded its arsenal of disinformation operations, cyberattacks, and hacking assaults on European countries to include more aggressive tactics such as sabotage and intimidation. That coincides with a renewed invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s troops to advance in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region.

The Kremlin has a long history of trying to leverage peace movements in the West to its benefit. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union frequently highlighted initiatives calling for nuclear disarmament in Europe and the elimination of US nuclear weapons, while portraying itself as committed to peace even as Moscow deployed its own missile systems aimed at NATO.

Source: Bloomberg

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