Disinformation as if Poland Plans to Seize Lviv through a Referendum

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Reading Time: 5 minutes


On November 30th, 2022, Kremlin propaganda media РИА Новости published an interview with the head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, Sergei Naryshkin, in which he stated that Poland wants to seize Western Ukraine and decided to use “Russia’s successful experience of holding a referendum” to legitimize this goal. According to Naryshkin, the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, instructed the relevant agencies to promptly prepare an official justification of Warsaw’s claims to the lands of Western Ukraine.

According to Naryshkin, the Polish special services released information to the Ukrainian press about the preparation of a referendum in the Lviv region on joining Poland “like a test balloon,” noting that the reaction of the population on this issue will be carefully analyzed.

Naryshkin’s interview was disseminated by other Kremlin media outlets ( ЗВЕЗДА, ВЕСТИ.ru, Спутник Беларусь). On December 3rd, identical information was published on the website of the Georgian pro-Kremlin online outlet “Georgia and World.”

The article prepared by “Georgia and the World” also mentions that the President of Ukraine, speaking in the Parliament of Ukraine together with the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, announced the granting of special legal status to Polish citizens in Ukraine (the bill announced on May 22nd), presenting it as an additional argument that Kyiv renounces part of its sovereignty.

The claim that Poland plans to annex Western Ukraine is part of the Kremlin’s propaganda that resurfaces from time to time. Official Warsaw has never voiced territorial claims over Ukraine. In addition, there are no articles in open Ukrainian sources that talk about holding a referendum on Lviv leaving Ukraine and joining Poland, although there is a lot of information where this issue is evaluated as Russian disinformation. Also, the Constitution of Ukraine mentions that the issue of territorial change takes place through a national referendum and not at the regional level. As for the law that grants special rights to Polish citizens in Ukraine, it entered into force on September 16th, and it does not call into question the issue of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

The disinformation that Poland plans to annex Western Ukraine was amplified since the Russian invasion of Ukraine when Poland openly declared its support for Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees. According to Russian propaganda media, in response to this aid, Poland considers that it “deserves” Western Ukraine. In fact, the Polish government constantly emphasizes that it respects the borders of neighbouring countries and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. Also, the Polish Parliament called the so-called referendums illegal and noted that it does not recognize the results. President Andrzej Duda condemned the so-called referendums at the UN General Assembly in New York, stressing that Poland would not recognize the results.

  • The Kremlin Fabricates Evidence about the Alleged Referendum in Lviv

Russian media has been actively disseminating the false claim as if Poland is planning to seize Western Ukraine by following the “successful way” used by Russia by holding a referendum in Lviv. According to the Kremlin propaganda media, the Polish special services released information about the referendum into the Ukrainian press “like a test balloon”. Russian sources do not specify the Ukrainian media where the alleged information was published; in addition, there are no reports on holding a referendum in Lviv in open sources. Notably, Ukrainian sources report that all that has been written about the so-called referendum is part of the disinformation campaign pursued by the Kremlin.

Mykhailo Podolyak, the adviser to the President of Ukraine, responded to the interview of Sergei Naryshkin on Twitter, noting that it is an attempt by Russia to incite mistrust between Poland and Ukraine.

It should be noted that according to the Constitution of Ukraine, the issue of territorial change in the country should be decided through a national referendum and not at the regional level.

Source: president.gov.ua

Claims about holding a referendum in Lviv have been circulating in the past as well, which were verified by Ukrainian and Polish fact-checking platforms. In September, after holding the so-called referendums in four regions of Ukraine controlled by Russia (Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhya and Donetsk), Russian sources reported that “a similar referendum was planned to be held in other regions of Ukraine,” this time, by Poland. The information was accompanied by a photo of the election ballot, which seemed to have the name of the Polish Election Commission on it. According to the bulletin, the referendum was held in Lviv.

In addition, the Polish fact-checking platform Demagog contacted a representative of the National Election Commission to verify the information in September, who confirmed that the ballot was fabricated.

Screenshot: 24rus.ru
  • The Law on Grants Special Rights to Polish Citizens in Ukraine

The article prepared by “Georgia and World” also talks about the law adopted in Ukraine about Polish citizens, according to which Ukraine seems to be losing its sovereignty.

On May 22nd, 2022, during the visit of Polish President Andrzej Duda to Kyiv, Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced a draft law, according to which Polish citizens living in Ukraine would be granted a special status. The initiative was adopted in response to a law passed by Poland on assistance to Ukrainian citizens in connection with the armed conflict. The draft law immediately became the subject of speculation in Russian publications. This project was discussed in the Rada of Ukraine on July 28th and supported by 283 MPs. On August 15th, the President of Ukraine signed the law, and it entered into force on September 16th.

According to the law, Polish citizens have the privilege of staying legally on the territory of Ukraine for 18 months and enjoying the same rights as Ukrainian citizens. The law includes the following aspects in particular:

  • Employment without additional permission (including scientific-pedagogical and medical workers);
  • Conducting business activities on the territory of Ukraine with the same rights as citizens of Ukraine;
  •  Social benefits, including disability, unemployment, disability, etc.
  •  Free education and scholarships;
  • Medical assistance with the same rights as Ukrainians;
  • Registering as a taxpayer and obtaining the registration number of the taxpayer’s registration card.

The law does not mention the issue of the right to vote nor the surrender of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Disinformation, as if Poland seeks to annex Ukraine, has been fact-checked by “Myth Detector” in the past as well. For more details, see our articles:

The article has been written in the framework of Facebook’s fact-checking program. You can read more about the restrictions that Facebook may impose based on this article via this link. You can find information about appealing or editing our assessment via this link.

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Violation: Disinformation
Country: Poland, Ukraine
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