Disinformation by Kremlin Media about the Placement of Anti-Ukrainian Billboards in Poland

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On January 5th, Kremlin propaganda media outlets (1, 2), including Pravda, RT in Russian, Lenta, Gazeta.ru, Izvestia, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Ren.tv, have disseminated the news about the appearance of anti-Ukrainian advertising billboards in the Polish city of Częstochowa. Pravda, Ren.tv and Life.ru also published a photo of the billboard, the billboard says “This is not our war” in Polish and depicts a man in military pants against the background of the flags of Ukraine and Russia. The leg that is on the Ukrainian side is presented in the form of a prosthesis. The photograph of the billboard is not attached to the articles of other media outlets, but the billboard is described verbally in their materials. The same information was also published by the Belarusian pro-Kremlin publication “Belarus 1” on its Facebook page and on the website “Alternative.”

The claim that anti-Ukrainian advertising billboards appeared in the Polish city of Częstochowa is false. The photo used in the distributed material was altered using a computer software. The original photos were taken in Tallinn and are a free billboard advertising template that you can insert any image into. “Myth Detector” contacted the Częstochowa City Hall, and representatives of the city confirmed that there are no such billboards in the city.

The viral photo actually depicts a free billboard advertising template that has been featured on the website mediamodifier.com since 2016. On the site, you can edit a photo and insert any picture into a billboard. According to the information indicated on the website, the original picture was taken in the capital of Estonia.

Screenshot 23 Disinformation by Kremlin Media about the Placement of Anti-Ukrainian Billboards in Poland

The same billboard template with another advertisement can also be seen on the Russian site freelance.ru.

Screenshot 24 Disinformation by Kremlin Media about the Placement of Anti-Ukrainian Billboards in Poland

In its article, Kremlin propaganda outlet “Pravda” names the Polish edition na:Temat as the source of the news. According to the na:Temat article published on February 2nd, according to the publication, the pro-Russian publicist and historian Leszek Sykulsky announced an anti-Ukrainian campaign with advertising billboards “This is not our war,” the article does not indicate that such billboards have already appeared in the city. However, na:Temat notes that the photo of the billboard is a template, taken in Tallinn and can be found at freelance.ru. Unlike na:Temat, Pravda writes that billboards have already appeared in Częstochowa.

According to Sykulsky, the first billboard in the city of Czestochowa was supposed to appear on February 3rd. On February 6th, “Myth Detector” contacted the City Hall, a representative of the city government, Włodzimierz Tutaj, confirmed that such billboards did not appear in the city, and the photo was not taken in Częstochowa. The mayor’s office also connected us with a journalist from the influential Polish publication Gazeta Wyborcza. Michał Hyra, who works on Leszek Sykulsky’s anti-war campaign, also confirmed that there are no such billboards in the city of Częstochowa. Hyra debunked Pravda’s disinformation claims in a February 6th article.

Who is Leszek Sykulsky?

Leszek Sykulski is a geopolitician who, according to the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, before the war in Ukraine, did not attract much attention outside the circle of people interested in geopolitics. In April 2022, an interview with Russian Ambassador Sergei Andreev, Sykulsky supported the pro-Russian narrative justifying Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He also criticized the supply of weapons to Ukraine and said that the US was trying to drag Poland into the war.

It should be noted that in 2019 Leszek Sykulsky met with the main Kremlin ideologist Alexander Dugin for an interview. According to Sykulsky, Dugin is a “valuable source” for his book.  

Screenshot 25 Disinformation by Kremlin Media about the Placement of Anti-Ukrainian Billboards in Poland

At the end of January, Stanislav Zharin, the coordinator of special services and the Government Commissioner for the Security of the Information Space of the Republic of Poland, criticized Sykulsky and said that he was spreading Russian propaganda against Poland.

Together with Sebastian Pitoń, Sykulsky launched a pro-Russian movement “This is not our war.” The movement has two initiatives: the first includes a documentary film “stop the Americanization of Poland” – which is supposed to show the true face of US-Polish relations. The movement is also going to stage an information campaign about the “real threats”, as the Polish government “does not disclose everything about the causes of the war.” According to Sykulsky, campaign financing will be based on fundraising principles. 


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Topic: Politics
Country: Poland, Ukraine
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