2020.09.14 16:30

Lithuania’s support for Belarusians prompt disinformation attacks, says ministry

LRT.lt2020.09.14 16:30

Lithuania’s support for Belarusian people protesting against Alexander Lukashenko’s regime has prompted an increase in disinformation activity, according to the country’s Defence Ministry.

In August, the Lithuanian Armed Forces recorded more than 200 cases of false information targeting the country – a significantly higher number than usual. Most of the attacks were connected to the events in Belarus.

One of the new narratives picked up by the Strategic Communications Department, which monitors disinformation and cyberattacks in the country, alleged that Lithuania was meddling in the internal affairs of Belarus.

According to the Lithuanian Armed Forces, hostile websites published articles accusing Lithuania and Poland of instigating unrest in Belarus, claiming that the two countries received US orders to start the “bloody revolution”.

Other stories falsely stated that Lithuania and Poland were on the quest to reconquer their historical territories.

The Lithuanian military recorded the greatest disinformation activity on August 9–11, immediately following the Belarusian presidential election that saw Alexander Lukashenko declare victory.

Mass protests erupted across the country, which the regime aimed to suppress by force. On August 10, the presidents of Lithuania and Poland urged the Belarusian regime to end the violence against protesters, which resulted in information attacks.

The second wave of disinformation came on August 23–28 with the start of the Freedom Way demonstration, when thousands of people in Lithuania linked hands from Vilnius to the Belarusian border to express solidarity with protesters in the neighbouring country.

Read more: ‘Zhyve Belarus’. Lithuanian president joins human chain event to show solidarity

The most common story alleged that the air balloons launched into the sky during the event carried surveillance devices to spy on military exercises in Belarus.

Read more: Belarus says military helicopters 'stopped' Lithuanian balloons during Freedom Way

The August 17–25 military exercise near Grodno in Belarus also contributed to the rise of disinformation due to Lukashenko’s false claims of increased NATO activity in Poland and Lithuania.

At the end of the month, Lukashenko threatened to divert Belarusian exports away from the Klaipėda port. The false stories then escalated the narrative that Lithuania was a victim of Russophobia and would be hit with serious economic consequences if the trade stopped.

Another popular story falsely accused Americans and Lithuanians of training protest organisers in Lithuania.

Read more: No disruption to Belarusian cargo transit via Lithuania despite Lukashenko's threats