From Alaska via Putin and Moscow to the Balkans and Finally to North Macedonia
The fake news started from ESSA News (Poland), spread through the Balkans, and finally arrived in North Macedonia
PHOTO: Collage: Vladimir Putin, screenshot/YoutTube; map of Alaska, public domain
Facebook posts are spreading disinformation regarding Putin’s latest decree according to which Alaska, the Baltic countries, Tibet, and other territories that historically belonged to the USSR and Imperial Russia will be retrieved back. The fake news started from ESSA News (Poland), spread through the Balkans, and finally arrived in North Macedonia. Putin indeed signed a decree on property management beyond the borders of the Russian Federation on 18.01.2024. However, it does not mention another country or territory, nor that Putin “will retrieve them back”
One of the posts says the following:
Putin signed a Presidential decree thereby committing funds for investigating, registering, and taking over property belonging to the Russian Empire from countries beyond Russia, including Alaska, Finish Duchy, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and parts of Poland, Germany, Baltic states, and Central Asia.
Putin said that the Deed for the sale of Alaska to America is not valid.
On several occasions, Truthmeter wrote about the manner in which Russian disinformation travels on our social media. This time, what initially appeared as news in Russia, transformed itself into disinformation having reached Polish soil and further spread throughout the Balkans, demonstrating the global reach and the consequences of fake narratives.
Firstly, it is true that Putin signed a decree on managing property beyond the borders of the Russian Federation on 18.01.2024. But that document does not mention a country or territory, nor that Putin will “retrieve them back”. The following day – on 19.01.2024 – the national Russian news agency TASS reported on the decree, but only specifying that funds will be allocated to the Foreign Property Department within the Administrative Office of the President of the Russian Federation.
On 21 January, Polish portal ESSA News reported on the decree, and that is where fact distortion started. The following day the news started spreading on social media in the Balkans. First, it appeared in Serbia and Croatia, then in Bosnia and finally in North Macedonia. The fake news, like a dysfunctional telephone, kept changing, but the central idea continued to circulate in the following days on Facebook (1,2).
As covered by our peers in Snopes, nowhere does the decree itself mention Alaska or any other territory that was previously owned by Russia, for “illegal” sales, nor does it say that territory will be demanded back on the basis of “illegal” sales. According to the Institute for Study of War think-tank, the actual parsametres for defining current and historic Russian ownership are unclear. The ultimate goal, however, can be internal destabilization of the Soviet Union countries by using “soft power”.
The other possible reason could be that several days prior to the signing of the decree, the German Defense Minister shared a scenario of how NATO would be involved in a conflict with Russia. The places in focus were Belarus and the Russian enclave Kaliningrad. In the days when the fake news on the decree was spreading, Putin decided to suddenly visit Kaliningrad.
Whatever the reason for signing the decree and visiting Kaliningrad, one thing is clear – the disinformation influx is going on.