Wednesday

6th Jul 2022

Ukraine debunks YouTube terror threat on Dutch referendum

  • Ukrainian nationalists, such as Azov or Right Sector, feature heavily in Russian propaganda (Photo: Christopher Bobyn)

The Azov Regiment, a squad of irregular, nationalist fighters in Ukraine, has debunked a YouTube clip threatening terrorist attacks if Dutch people vote No in a referendum on the EU-Ukraine trade treaty.

Andriy Diachenko, Azov’s deputy commander, said in a video statement on Tuesday (19 January) that they did not create the clip, adding that it’s “laughable” because Azov is, in any case, anti-EU integration.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“Azov members, as befits Ukrainian nationalists, have always perceived the idea of ​​Ukraine joining the European Union negatively, instead supporting the idea of a Baltic-Black Sea alternative union,” he said.

He noted that the clip uses replica AK47s instead of real ones.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry also told the Dutch ambassador in Kiev that the clip is fake.

For his part, Kees Verhoeven, a Dutch MP with the social-liberal D66 party, has called for a government investigation into Russian attempts to influence the vote.

The fake clip was published on Monday on a previously unused YouTube account entitled “Patriot” in Ukrainian.

It shows balaclava-clad men with Azov insignia burning a Dutch flag.

Propaganda

Recalling the Paris attacks, one man says: “Dear Dutchmen, don't you dare go against Ukraine.”

“We’ll find you everywhere. In a movie … in your bedroom, on public transport. We have our guys in the Netherlands and they’re ready to obey any order."

For Ukrainian journalists and civil society activists, the clip bears the hallmarks of Russian propaganda.

But it caused a stir in Dutch online circles. The popular news blog geenstijl.nl said that even if the clip is fake the risk of an attack by Ukrainian terrorists could be real.

Roman Sohn, a columnist for the Ukrainska Pravda website, told EUobserver: “The video is being used as a ‘foot in the door’ manoeuvre to start a public debate on Nazi fascists in Ukraine to disparage the integration aspirations of Ukrainians.”

“Russian propagandists are very effective,” he added.

“Even when people distrust the authenticity of their message, the message still does harm because people subconsciously embrace the underlying emotional connotations.”

The Ukraine referendum, on 6 April, comes after a petition organised by Dutch NGOs.

It’s non-binding and the EU-Ukraine treaty has already entered into force.

But European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker recently warned that a No could “open the door to a big continental crisis”.

Fake stories

For its part, the Dutch government has said it will campaign for a Yes because the treaty is good for Dutch trade and for European security.

But it’s keeping the campaign low profile in the hope that turnout falls below the threshold of 30 percent.

Meanwhile, the EU foreign service, last year, created a small unit, called East StratCom, to also debunk Russian propaganda.

It publishes a regular review called Disinformation Weekly, which says the latest trend is fake stories purportedly taken from Western media.

One story, shortly after New Year's Eve, said the BBC had reported that Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko had been hospitalised after his wife found him drunk under their Christmas tree.

The BBC never published such a report.

Opinion

Open letter to president Juncker on the Dutch Ukraine vote

On 6 April Netherlands will hold a referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement. Because many voters feel that it could lead to Ukraine membership of the EU, the EU should rule that out, argues Dutch politician Sammy van Tuyll.

Dutch PM takes back seat on Ukraine vote

Dutch leader Rutte will not defend Yes vote "with flyers and flags and the like", despite polls showing the No camp could sink the Ukraine pact, in echoes of 2005.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

News in Brief

  1. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis
  2. Instant legal challenge after ok for 'green' gas and nuclear
  3. Alleged Copenhagen shooter tried calling helpline
  4. Socialist leader urges Czech PM to ratify Istanbul convention
  5. Scottish law chief casts doubt on referendum
  6. British PM faces mounting rebellion
  7. Russian military base near Finnish border emptied
  8. Euro slides to lowest level in two decades

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  2. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  3. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  4. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  5. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  6. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record
  7. MEPs adopt new digital 'rule book', amid surveillance doubts
  8. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us