Feds deny Russian rumours that 3 Canadian soldiers were killed in Ukraine
Published Friday, May 18, 2018 7:01PM EDT
Federal officials have flatly denied online rumours circulated by Russian social media accounts that three Canadian soldiers working in Ukraine were killed by a landmine.
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces told CTV News that the claims are totally false, and that there are no Canadians who have been injured or killed.
The false claim appears to have been first reported on a Russian-language website that cites the pro-Russian group the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). The separatist group, which receives financial backing from Russia, was declared a terrorist group by Ukraine in 2015.
The report falsely claims that three NATO servicemen from Canada were killed by a landmine near Avdeyevka, a Ukrainian community near the Russian border. The report also claims that two American soldiers were injured in the blast.
The report alleges that Ukrainian officials plan to blame the pro-Russian group for the “attack,” which it calls an “accident.” Instead, the report says the landmine accident -- which never happened -- is the sole fault of the Ukrainian government.
The article cites the claim to the DPR’s “defense ministry.” The DPR is not a country and does not have a defense ministry.
Despite the untrue nature of the report, it quickly spread on Russian-language social media accounts. Eventually, the claims were translated into English and hit the radar of Western media.
The rumour appears to be fanned by Twitter accounts based in Russia, some of which may be trying to undermine faith in NATO. Several of the accounts consistently tweet anti-American sentiments.
Since 2015, Canada, Britain the U.S. have sent military trainers to Ukraine to teach soldiers skills such as bomb disposal, medical training and how to work as a unit. The move came after Russia annexed Crimea and began funnelling resources to pro-Russian separatists forces in Donbass, an eastern region in Ukraine.
It’s hardly the first time Russian cyber trolls have attempted to undermine NATO-linked forces. When Canadian troops arrived in Latvia last summer to support a multinational mission to bolster the country’s border, Moscow-generated fake news poured over the border through radio airwaves, television and social media.
Among the claims were that Latvia is a failed state and that Russia was best suited to create world order.
Russian meddling has also been linked to the 2016 U.S. election. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied his government’s role but said patriotic Russians may have decided to get involved in the strategic hacking.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the U.S. election, has charged13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies in an alleged plot to use social media propaganda to interfere in the election.
U.S. intelligence officials claim that Putin personally sought to ruin Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the election in favour of U.S. President Donald Trump.
With a report from CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson in Ottawa and The Associated Press