Another claim that Poland is ostensibly interested in annexing Ukraine’s western regions was disseminated in Russian-language and Georgian-language pro-Kremlin pages and media in social networks (1,2,3,4,5)
This time, propaganda mouthpieces corroborate their claim with a photograph which ostensibly shows a moment from a weather forecast announcement shown on one Polish TV channel. According to the claim, the TV channel used a map of Poland which included Ukraine’s Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Volyn, Chernivtsi, Zhytomyr, Khmelnytskyi, Vinnytsia and Zakarpattia districts as Polish territories during the forecast announcement.
These reports are items of disinformation which are proven by a number of pieces of evidence. First and foremost, the episode of this TV programme cannot be found on the Polish TVP 1 website. The weather forecast programme on TVP 1 looks entirely different and Ukrainian territories are nowhere to be seen on the Polish map.
In addition, further proof that the photograph is fabricated is that the TV host shown in the photo does not actually work for TVP 1. The name of programme’s anchor is Jana Wisocka and her photograph was taken from a weather forecast programme from March 2020 on the RadioMaryja website.
Orthographic mistakes provide another example of proof of the photograph being a forgery. Some Twitter users also paid their attention to this aspect: “Russians suggest that Polish TV shows the weather forecast for imperial Poland. Idiots. They forgot to add Polish letters, for example the right way to spell the names of the countries and cities on the map in Polish would be: Białoruś, Słowacja, Mińsk, Kijów, Lwów.”
It was reported later that the Polish fact-checking organisation, Demagogue, reached out to the TV channel which was mentioned in the piece of disinformation. The TV channel, however, denied allegations of the Russian propagandists.
There have been many cases of disinformation since the very beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine claiming that Poland eyes annexation of Ukraine’s west.
For instance, on 30 November 2022, the Head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergey Narishkin, made a statement about Poland’s covert intentions. As stated by Narishkin: “Warsaw steps up readiness to annex Ukrainian lands: most of Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil districts.” Sergey Narishkin also claimed that the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, had already instructed relevant services to quickly prepare an official substantiation of territorial claims against Ukraine. A Russian spymaster also claimed that the point of departure for the Polish claims would be the 1943 Volyn massacre and added that Warsaw is going to hold referendum in Lviv on joining this territory to Poland.
Of note is that many from the ranks of Russian authorities have made similar statements over the course of the past several months. President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, said that idea of absorbing Ukraine is still alive in Poland whilst the Secretary of Russia’s National Security Council, Nikolay Patrushev, added that Poland is already making steps to capture western Ukrainian lands.
After the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Order party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, stated that NATO’s peacekeeping mission or NATO could stop the hostilities. A few days after this statement, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, stated that Poland would use this idea as a pretext to establish control over western Ukraine. Following this statement on 28 April 2022, Sergey Narishkin warned that Poland was getting ready to invade western Ukraine and was going to establish military and political control over Poland’s historical territories together with the USA. On 29 April, a spokesperson from Poland’s Ministry of Internal Affairs responded to Narishkin’s statement and denied information that Warsaw plans to annex western Ukraine. Stanislaw Zaryn, Spokesperson of the Minister-Special Services Coordinator, also responded to Sergey Narishkin and said that Mr Narishkin continues the Russian information operation against Poland and the USA. Mr Zaryn also added that lies about Poland's alleged plans to attack western Ukraine have been repeated for several years. The campaign was particularly intensified after the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
In addition, the Government of Poland, in an information piece published on its website, says that it is the Kremlin’s propaganda lies that Poland has hostile attitudes vis-à-vis Ukraine and has an intention to occupy Ukraine’s western territories.
Of interest is that public calls for Ukraine’s neighbours to partitioning Ukraine’s territories among themselves started years ago. In 2014, the late Russian Duma MP, Vladimir Zhirinovskyi, sent a letter to Poland, Hungary and Romania about partitioning Ukraine’s territory. However, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called his letter “ridiculous.”
In reality, Poland has not made any claims on Ukraine’s western territories neither at a government level nor through any public official. However, the Kremlin incessantly uses this topic for propaganda purposes.
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