The pro-Kremlin narrative about migrants in Europe

pro-kremlin narrative on migrants



Pro-Kremlin outlets share an often-repeated narrative about migrants in the EU Member States. It combines elements of misinformation with a factual background of refugees arriving in Europe in large numbers. The pro-Kremlin narrative focuses on stirring up alarmist sentiments and is supported by a promotion of hate-speech. As a case from Sweden illustrates, the strategic aim is to bring confusion and to stir up controversy in public debates: A Swedish freelance writer, with an established financial dependency on Russian citizens, wrote articles about migration under several aliases. Some of these argued against Sweden receiving more migrants, while others were radically pro-immigration.

What is the pro-Kremlin narrative about migrants? Rather than paraphrasing, we can simply quote a statement made by talk show host Pyotr Tolstoy (who is now Deputy Speaker of the Russian State Duma) on 1 July 2016: “In countries like France and Belgium, [migrants] have been spoiled with welfare benefits, which they receive for not working, they are allowed to receive these welfare benefits for the many wives they can have in accordance with their beliefs,” Tolstoy said, and continued: “This is what has resulted in the bomb explosions in Paris and the explosions in Brussels.” Watch it here (from minute 12:02, in Russian). Tolstoy’s statement introduces the discussion, but provides a distinct framing: European governments are depicted as weak and naïve; migrants are their antagonists, being cynically abusive of the welfare system, and potential terrorists.

A textbook example of how the pro-Kremlin narrative about migrants is promoted is the so-called “Lisa case”, which displayed a well-coordinated disinformation exercise, involving Russian state media, social media, trolls and political leaders. In January 2016, an unfounded rumour about the alleged rape of 13-year old Lisa from a Russian-speaking family in Berlin was spread on social media: The girl claimed she was abducted by migrants, held for many hours and raped by them. The story was picked up by trolls and Kremlin-loyal media and led to thousands of German Russian speakers protesting against the German government. Russia’s Foreign Minister also brought up the unconfirmed allegations at a press conference. For a thorough account of the “Lisa case”, see NATO’s article “The ‘Lisa case’: Germany as a target of Russian disinformation”.

Another case of migration-related disinformation saw pro-Kremlin media actively relay allegations that a large group of refugees committed an arson attack on the Dortmund cathedral in Germany. This story had originally appeared in the American outlet Breitbart. For more examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation targeting Germany, see our recent article.

The Disinformation Review has over the last 18 months reported many other examples of how the pro-Kremlin migrant narrative has been used. Here is a selection:

  • In October 2016, disinformation about a migrant allegedly being acquitted of a sexual attack in Austria made it all the way to Russia’s state-controlled TV Pervy Kanal as well as to public comments made by President Putin. What had happened was that the judicial trial had to be repeated and the accused remained in custody awaiting new proceedings.
  • A particularly embarrassing moment for Russian state media was when TV host Dmitry Kiselev’s show Vesti Nedeli was caught mistranslating and misrepresenting answers made by French by-passers about migrants, as we described in May last year. The French TV show Le Petit Journal found the original interviewees and they confirmed that Vesti Nedeli had turned around their statements into expressions of xenophobia.
  • Pro-Kremlin disinformation about migrants in Europe has its even more bizarre moments, e.g. when the Russian state outlet Sputnik reported in September last year that European citizens allegedly envy migrants for their polygamy
  • Sputnik also reported that Europe’s migrant crisis is in fact secretly orchestrated by George Soros.
  • The outlet of the Russian Defence Ministry, Zvezda, informed its audience in February that nine nuns in a Milano monastery became pregnant after hosting five migrants (and an orgy with them): Apparently, Zvezda picked up a satirical article published by an Italian outlet that was not to be taken seriously.

One important aspect is that hate speech is far more accepted in pro-Kremlin media and e.g. on Russian state TV. As we have reported, racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic utterances are not only accepted, but promoted by leading Russian TV hosts, for example in their recent campaigning against Emmanuel Macron’s candidacy to be President of France.

All politics is at least to some degree local: Many media, including the Washington Post have pointed out that Russia’s own migration issues have recently surfaced in discussions after the terrorist bomb in the St. Petersburg metro in April. Similarly, when pro-Kremlin media peddle the narrative that Swedish cities have immigrant dominated “no-go zones”, the situation in Russia’s Chechnya calls for comparison – a place which it would be difficult not to identify as a no-go zone for gay men and even journalists.

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  1. Avatar Mr. Jackson says:

    Tensions continue to rise over Ukrainian legislative bills on control of the Russian Church. After the Patriarch of Russia asked the Pope to intervene, the Ukrainian ambassador was summoned to the Vatican.

    Pope Francis summoned the Ukrainian ambassador to the Holy See after controversial bills for the Russian Orthodox Church were proposed in Ukraine.

    “The Vatican is concerned about the possibility of passing bills 4128 and 4511 [against the Russian Orthodox Church]. Our Ukrainian ambassador to the Vatican was summoned. The Vatican is fully supportive of the position expressed by Catholic Bishop Stanislav Chirokoraduk on this subject,” — posting of Nikolai Danilevich, archpriest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Patriarchate of Moscow on his facebook page.

    Stanislav Chirokoraduk, criticizing the Ukrainian legislative motives for the Orhodox Church, lamented on May 16: “How can such bills be proposed? If the Church exists, it has its own rules […] It is a humiliation of the Church. “

    1. Avatar Murf says:

      All Moscow Orthodox patriarch churches should be seized and turned over the the Kyiv Patriarchy. The Moscow Patriarchy is as much a threat to Ukraine as a radical Muslim Cleric.
      Still not sure what concern it is of the Pope. If the report is even true.

      1. Avatar Andrew Chmile says:

        “The Moscow Patriarchy is as much a threat to Ukraine as a radical Muslim Cleric.”

        EVEN WORSE!
        Some of their BS “priests” have been caught fighting & acting as spies for Russians.

      2. Avatar Mr. Jackson says:

        Says the radical Polish Zionist and a Vatican (Pedophiles) Lover. Meh!
        All the Satan Worshipers at Polish Synagogues and Catholic Churches should be thrown out and exposed to light where they would burn and those structures seized and turned to orthodox Christians, true defenders of Good and God!

        1. Avatar Andrew Chmile says:

          Like when YOU! a scumbag ***SERBIAN*** & always hiding COWARD, with NOTHING to do …. except to LIE!

          You cursed Jesus Christ …. yeah …. real class alright … a real SCUMBAG bunch ALL YOU SERBIANS are …. & your being a MENTAL CASE, does not excuse anything.. . scum people!

        2. Avatar Murf says:

          So the Noe Naiz speaks.
          I all ways find it humerus that you Putin lovers accuse Kyiv of being Nazis even though the PM is Jewish the the trolls a spew the worst kind of Nazi garbage.

          1. Avatar Mr. Jackson says:

            Nazi-Zionist collaboration is well documented. Hitler supported Zionism because the Nazi government signed the Haavara agreement, which facilitated the relocation of Jews to Palestine in 1933 before the Third Reich turned to mass murder and extermination. The agreement allowed a portion of Jewish emigrants’ possessions, which they were forced to hand over before they left Germany, to be re-claimed through transfers to Palestine as German export goods.

          2. Avatar Mr. Jackson says:

            Read my mind: Zionism is NOT Judaism! – Despite the outrage of many pro-Israel groups, there is a long history of human rights scholarship and legal analysis that supports the assertion Israel is committing genocide, according to a statement from the Center for Constitutional Rights.

          3. Avatar Murf says:

            Yeah sure.
            Not Coptics are not Christians.
            Jesuiets are not Catholics.
            And only Baptists are going to Heaven.
            ThE Japanese-Americans were not real Americans in WWII.
            Illegal imagrints don’t deserve to be treat like human beings.
            I have herd the same bigotry my whole life.
            You separate a group to make it socially acceptable to attack them.
            Doesn’t matter if it for religion, political beliefs or ethnicity.
            You are all the same.

          4. Avatar Mr. Jackson says:

            Liberals invented the “conspiracy theory” sound bite to defend their criminal acts in USA. Everyone but Zionist understand that criticism of Zionism is not criticism of Judaism. Zionism is NOT Judaism! Copts do not claim right to return and have their own state. Satanism is not Christianity! Israel does not represent the Jewish people. Israel represents people who believe that Jewish people should have a state in Palestine/Israel to the exclusion of the Palestinians. The irony is the people Rothschild hauled on boats and sent there are not descendants of Moses. Fake Jews, which you are one of them, are Khazars. You are a feisty Turkic tribe that took Judaism on ini mini…

            Many Zionists are Jewish, but not all of them. You Talmudist, Zionist, Fascists, Nazi, Communist and Satanist may waffle, roll and spin it any way you chose or want but when looked down closely Zionism is no better then Nazism or Communism. It is corrosive, genocidal, mind-poisons cake baked at the same oven and by the same chefs. Yes, Zionism is hateful, oppressive, corrupt, nationalistic and supremacist to the core. The biggest problems in US foreign policy comes from illegally supporting nuclear weapon armed Zionist regime.

          5. Avatar Murf says:

            Sorry bigot but Zionism is as much apart of Judaism as Orthodox Jews/
            Don’t like it? To fu*king bad.

          6. Avatar Mr. Jackson says:

            Zionist are terrible and you relay on LIES too much. Remember your rampant lies about Srebrenica? TWO FORMER SENIOR UN officials, and a group of journalists and academic researchers, on July 12, 2005, cast serious doubt on what they said were “highly inflated casualty figures and a misleading portrayal of events by governments, non-governmental organizations and major news organizations” with regard to the 1995 capture of Srebrenica, in Bosnia, by Bosnian Serb forces.


            The Srebrenica Research Group, joined by former UN officials Philip Corwin and Carlos Martins Branco, released conclusions from their 200-page report “Srebrenica and the Politics of War Crimes” which said that US policy undermined UN and European brokered peace settlements, which could have ended the war in 1992 or 1993, in order to pursue a military solution which inevitably endangered safe zones. By facilitating shipments of illegal weapons to Muslim forces, the US helped turn safe zones into staging areas for conflict and tripwires for NATO intervention. The group, which will soon release the full report, announced the following conclusions:
            The premise that Serbian forces executed 7,000 to 8,000 people “was never a possibility,” according to former BBC journalist Jonathan Rooper, who investigated on site and through official records over many years the events which followed the capture of Srebrenica, and whose findings are presented in the upcoming report of the Srebrenica Research Group. He noted that by the first week of August 1995, 35,632 people had registered with the World Health Organization and Bosnian Government as displaced persons, survivors of Srebrenica, a figure which was later referred to [in] an Amnesty International report and the report of the Dutch Government.


          7. Avatar Mr. Jackson says:

            Zio-NaZZi, your involvement is detrimental to the affairs of the Ukrainian people. Trump was right to treat Eurodummies with contempt during failed NATO summit and G7. Eurodummies will now have to deal with the fallout from the total collapse of the Ukraine, but the first ones to pay will be the Poles who tried so hard to draw NATO and the real Europe into their revanchist agenda. Besides, is it not simply justice for the Poles who for years have been ranting about a Russian threat and who for years have been supporting nationalist and even neo-Nazi movements in the Ukraine to now be faced with a deluge of problems (social, political, economic, etc.) coming from “their” Ukrainians will the Russians will be looking at this mess from the east, protected by the two Novorussian republics and formidable National and Border guards. As most Russians will, I wish the Europeans “bien du plaisir” with the upcoming waves of Ukrainian refugees and the “European values” they will bring with them.

          8. Avatar Murf says:

            Ukraine collapsing- Riiiight.
            Here is a little tidbit they may not taught you at the “School for Paranoid Conspiracy Theorists” but collapsing economies, their currency value doesn’t improve. It drops.
            Ukraine recently went from $27.69 to today’s $26.26.
            Of course GAPROM’s humiliating in Stockholm hasn’t hurt.
            State revenues are up 17% over last year.
            The Rada are working on Pension reform and the Land Bank. This will allow the INF to issue the next tranche. If they keep getting the legislation passed Ukraines forgine reserve could top 21 billion USD. That will bring own the exchange rate even more and improve the credit rating.
            The major state owned companies like Naftagaz are actually turning a profit.
            Roads are being repaired.
            New schools are being built.
            Consumer spending is up 10%.
            The military continues to improve.
            The best news is that Kayderov’s punk a$$ personal assassin got gunned down by a girl.
            I never get tired of that one.

  2. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

    The Kremlin is trying to encourage extremism in the EU. What about RuSSia’s millions of Uzbek, Tajik, etc migrants? RuSSia is full of bull. Most EU citizens have never had it so good. Unlike most RuSSians, who are backsliding into third world poverty. So farkov, Putin, you sack of chit.

  3. Avatar Turtler says:

    There are times that it seems like this website is DESPERATELY trying to destroy every single farqing iota of respect I still have for it. And this is one of them.

    It is in INCREDIBLY poor taste to read this after Manchester, where it’s since become pretty damn clear that while the triggermen themselves were born in Britain (albeit to refugee parents who apparently tried to do it) they did so in connection with Islamic State networks that have taken root in light of the border crisis and the unofficial no go zones that have popped up there. Even the farqing headline is GOD DAMN MISINFORMATION ITSELF.

    “Italian nuns become pregnant after hosting migrants”- don’t know enough, so I will let the stance of it as misinformation stand.

    “Europe’s migrant crisis is secretly orchestrated by Soros”, indeed, that is false. He merely benefits from it handily and has posited policies for making it worse.

    “Refugees commit arson attack on cathedral in Germany.” No, this is TRUE.

    And to prove it, let’s go to the farqing Guardian itself in a story that was meant to prove the Breitbart story false.


    “Stray fireworks did start a small blaze, but only on netting covering
    scaffolding on the church and it was put out after about 12 minutes,
    the paper reported. The roof was not on fire and the church is not
    Germany’s oldest.”

    So in short, they’re not contradicting the fact that there were a lot of “migrants” around and that there was fire damage done on the church, just the nature of the gathering and how the fire damage occurred. So even in the Guardian story meant to discredit it, we already have concurrence on three of the essential parts of the story:

    1. That there was fire damage (albeit not to the church itself)

    2. That there was a rather unruly gathering of “festivities” here.

    and finally 3. That fireworks let off by this group caused it.

    So from the word go, the Guardian (contrary to what it and apparently German police are claiming) has NOT refuted that part of the story, they’re haggling over the nature of it (though that does not necessarily include other parts of it, like the attacks on police).

    And NOWHERE I note in this sorry mess do they actually address -let alone refute- the documentary evidence the sods over at Breitbart collected, including the live video, which proceeds to take this story apart piece by piece in far more detail than I can.

    So they’re the ones with the goods, you aren’t, and neither is the Guardian.

    And yes, I know, the officials of German police have said that this was nothing out of the ordinary and a largely peaceful gathering.

    However, given how German police ALSO went to great lengths to minimize things like the scale and severity of the Cologne New Years’ Attacks and other crimes regarding “Migrants”…. I’m gonna have to go with Breitbart over this.

    Once you’ve been proven to engage in “misinformation’ for the “greater good” everyone else has just cause to suspect you afterwards.

    And while I am not the largest fan of what Breitbart has become, and how it has screwed the pooch on fields as far flung as the Kurds to Putin, they were the ones who had reporters there, they were the ones who provided Video Evidence.

    So any ACTUAL, thorough, and sincere refutation of their claims will HAVE TO ADDRESS THAT PRIMARY EVIDENCE FIRST. Until which it is probably safe to judge the claism that it is “misinformation” as Misinformation themselves.

    So debunked.

    “Underaged girl in Germany abducted and abused by Migrants.”

    To which sad, sick state of events I’d have to ask “Which one?” Because f*ck if this isn’t a recurring them that has been documented dozens of times, not just by sites on the fringe or in Putn’s pocket, but also by mainstream outlets and law enforcement. And while the pedophile grooming gangs seem to be more developed in the UK (though that might be more due to them being documented in my native language, English), Tahharush Gamea is a very real, prevalent problem that you can find evidence of in Lots of places.

    And yes, this kind of barbarism has been visited upon 13 year olds and even younger before.

    So against the backdrop of OBVIOUS AND CONFIRMED real sexual assaults and rapes, it isn’t freaking difficult to expect a few fake accusations to be slipped in. So “Lisa” Is a proven liar.

    Ok, fair enough, and a pox on her house.

    Now there’s just the literally thousands of other cases documented in Germany alone.

    Euromaidan Press- in such a fanatical effort to try and discredit any and all other concerns no matter how justified beyond Big Bad Putler and his rust belt Ruffians- is so ready to wipe away this stuff that it forgets that just because one or more persons claiming to be a Holocaust survivor were fraudsters does Not Mean the Holocaust didn’t happen.

    Now I get into the objectionable cripe in the article itself.

    “It combines elements of misinformation with a factual background of refugees arriving in Europe in large numbers. ”

    It is VERY hard for me to imagine a more insulting sentence to the victims of crimes like those at Nice, the Bataclan, and so on which were committed in no small part by such “migrants” affiliated with Jihadist terrorist groups using the shoddy state of EU security to slip past and kill.

    Am I supposed to believe the literally HUNDREDS of dead were not part of the “factual background”?

    Well, sorry, but that isn’t going to fly. I would call this a Band Aid solution, but that would be giving entirely too much dignity to it, because bandaids can at least keep a wound sterile and help it heal.

    THIS amounts to trying to get everyone to ignore the problem and loudly, crudely demonizing anybody who dares talk about it in the hopes that it will go away.

    It doesn’t work.

    And what the esteemed geniuses who let this piece get published on Euromaidan Press and the “EU East Stratcom Task Force” overlook in their efforts to debase the horrors caused by nutjobs and terrorists hiding inside the migrant populations is the dangerous and drastic inroads Vlad Putin has made INTO cooperating with Jihadis like Iran, his butt buddy Kadyrov, and Hezbollah. Some such Jihadis have already been hired on as mercenaries for him in the Donbas.

    But don’t just take MY word for it. Take the word of the government sources as summarized by a Liberal, Leftist German.

    Here’s a novel concept guys: You want to stop the Kremlin’s propaganda tentacles from using the migrant crisis and crimes tied to it as a club to push its’ agenda?

    STOP THE ATTACKS AND TAPE DOWN ON CONTROLS and PREVENT them from having any attacks to work with.

    Seriously. I’ve studied and crossed swords with the Kremlinbots to some degree, and influence operations using it. There’s a reason why Stalin’s satellite groups like the Communist Party of the United States grew in the face of things like the Great Depression, when it seemed like the mainstream parties had no effective answer.

    Stop the very real issue with these terror attacks, crimes, and lack of legal enforcement and you starve the Kremlin’s propagandists of credible material..