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2021.12.03 10:19

Belarusian KGB accused of using fake social media accounts to inflame migrant crisis

RFE/RL2021.12.03 10:19

Facebook's parent company, Meta, says it has removed dozens of fake social media accounts "linked to the Belarusian KGB" that were used to inflame an ongoing migrant crisis on the border between Belarus and Poland.

People posing as journalists and activists from Poland, Lithuania, and elsewhere in the European Union used the fake profiles to post "criticism of Poland in English, Polish, and Kurdish", the company said in a report issued late on December 1. The West accuses Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko of waging "hybrid war" by allowing migrants to fly into the country and then funneling them to the borders of EU members Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.

"We found this activity as a result of our internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behaviour in the region as we monitored the ongoing crisis at the border between Belarus and the EU, and we linked it to the Belarusian KGB," the report said, adding that the activity primarily targeted audiences in the Middle East and Europe.

The activity included posting "pictures and videos about Polish border guards allegedly violating migrants' rights, and compar[ing] Poland's treatment of migrants against other countries," Meta said.

The fictitious personas also "posted to groups focused on the welfare of migrants in Europe", while a few accounts "posted in Russian about relations between Belarus and the Baltic states," Meta added.

Read more: Migration crisis in Baltics and Poland

The company said it had removed a total of 41 Facebook accounts, five Facebook groups, and four Instagram accounts involved in this activity, whose core began in October.

Belarusian authorities did not immediately comment on the report, which said Meta had also removed 31 Facebook accounts, four groups, and four Instagram accounts that were believed to have originated in Poland and targetted an audience in Belarus and Iraq.

The accounts were intended to discourage migrants from trying to illegally enter the EU, it said.

"These fake personas claimed to be sharing their own negative experiences of trying to get from Belarus to Poland and posted about migrants' difficult lives in Europe," according to the report.

"They also posted about Poland's strict anti-migrant policies and anti-migrant neo-Nazi activity in Poland."

EU officials say Minsk is orchestrating the migrant crisis at the bloc's eastern flank in retaliation for its sanctions imposed over the brutal crackdown on Belarus's pro-democracy movement following a disputed presidential election in August 2020 that Lukashenko claims to have won.

The opposition and several Western governments, who refused to recognise Lukashenka as the country's ruler, say the election was rigged.

This story originally appeared at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, partners of LRT English.

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