Antifake / Factcheck

19 October 2023

Top-5 Fake News. Sanctions against Belarus and Russia attracted bedbugs to the EU and turned away tourists

Further: Peaceful past of Israel and Palestine; an American auditor’s murder in Ukraine; car selling hype in Belarus. Top-5 Fake News spotted by the Weekly Top Fake team.

Fake#1 Car sales see a five-fold increase in Belarus

Fake appearance date: 10.10.2023

There is explosive growth in car sales in Belarus, authors of the Telegram channel ‘ZHS Premium’ reported on October 10. Here is what they exactly said:

“We are fed up with those sanctions: car sales in Belarus see five-fold. 

According to the Belarusian Automobile Association (BAA), “in comparison to September 2022, the sold cars quantity increased more than five times; and the sales of the first 9 months of 2023 exceeded by 13.2% the same period sales in 2022.

The automobile market is stabilizing. The Geely brand occupied the leading position  with 1,365 cars sold in September.”

Indeed, BAA did publish a press release saying that sales of new cars in Belarus are growing. At the same time, the association highlights that this has happened after several years of rapid decline. 

Thus, in October 2022, BAA reported: “The official automobile market for new passenger cars in September 2022 fell 10 times compared to September 2021, amounting to only 374 vehicles.” 

In total, about 17,234 new cars were sold in Belarus in 2022, a year before —  46,837, and 64,504 — in 2019.

Over the nine months of 2023, Belarusians bought nearly 14 thousand new cars. 

At this rate, sales may exceed last year’s level by the end of 2023, but it will remain several times lower than before the sanctions.

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Fake#2 An American auditor was killed in Ukraine

Fake appearance date: 04.10.2023

On October 4, the Telegram channel ‘Nevolfovich’ reported the murder in Kyiv of an American auditor who was allegedly studying thefts in arms supplies. 

In particular, it was claimed: “The Ukrainian police predictably indicate it all as an accident. Allegedly, the cable broke and American Martin Hart was buried in construction stuff.

It is known that before the murder, Hart worked together with Ukrainian specialists from the Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.

Probably, he’s dug up something…”

The Ukrainian police did not report such a crime. Also, we googled "Martin Hart" and got Woody Harrelson's Hart character, Detective Marty, from the TV series ‘True Detective’.

In reply to the Weekly Top Fake team’s request, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine said that they have never collaborated with such a person and do not have information about him.

The primary source of this fake news was the satirical Telegram channel ‘The Empire is Very Evil’ which reported such a fake on September 29.

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Fake#3 Bedbug infestation in Europe caused by sanctions

Fake appearance date: 09.10.2023

Paris is being attacked by bedbugs. According to a host of the Belarusian state-run TV channel Belarus-1, the invasion of those insects was caused by sanctions against Belarus and Russia.

Here is what the propagandist Maria Petrashko in particular said on October 9:  

“European politicians blame Minsk and Moscow for different cases. But in case of an invasion of bedbugs... In general, it’s symbolic. Being without Russia, Europe returns to its roots: fleas, unsanitary conditions, cold, hunger and dirt. The sanctions have been done. In a European garden. 

Seven schools have closed in France due to bed bug infestations. It turned out that the anti-bedbug product, which is produced in Russia, was used on most wooden furniture materials. And Western politicians have imposed sanctions on this stuff. However, the European poison doesn't even get those bedbugs.”

On the air, Petrashko read aloud the headline of The Guardian and recounted its contents. However, the original article does not say anything about the Russian remedy for bed bugs, which was banned because of sanctions. 

Fake news about the connection between the bedbug invasion and sanctions against Russia was also published by some Russian media. For example, the following screenshot with a  headline in French “Sanctions against Russia led to a bedbug epidemic in Paris” was published by the website ‘Moscow Region Today' on October 7.

Here is their comment paired with the screenshot: “This is not a joke or a prank, but a real headline from the French La Montagne. And it is not unfounded, apparently.

According to the media outlet, supplies of the most important component for pesticides, which were previously successfully used against bed bugs, were stopped  from Russia to France.”

The Weekly Top Fake team found this article by La Montagne. There is the same photo of the bug and the time of publication — October 4, 06:02. The text is titled as follows: “Food, laying, habitat, bites: who are these bedbugs that are ruining our lives?”

And the mentioned reasons for the insect invasion are not related to sanctions:

“They were very common before the war, then in the 1950s, the massive use of DDT, a very powerful insecticide, reduced their population. Only we realized that it was carcinogenic. They started to come back and they developed resistance to pyrethroid products. You add to that travel, we are moving more and more, the rise of flea markets, second-hand stores, second-hand goods... All of this is favorable to them.”

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Fake#4 Tourists are not coming to Poland due to sanctions

Fake appearance date: 11.10.2023

Without Russian tourists, Poland's tourism industry collapsed, Andrei Klintsevich, the head of the Center for the Study of Military and Political Conflicts, claimed on air of the state-run TV channel Belarus-1.

“Poland had performed certain functions — transit. There were a lot of cargo, and logistics developed; tourism was quite developed. Nowadays all that is winding down. Well, Germans don’t go on vacation to Poland. As well as the Slovaks and the Austrians,” he said in the program ‘Trends’ on ‘Belarus 1’.

According to Polish statistics, tourism indicators are growing after the COVID-19 recession. In 2021, nearly 10 million tourists visited Poland, in 2022 — about 16 million.

Among all tourists, the Germans are in first place — more than 5 million visits in 2022 vs 3.6 million in 2021. During the same period, the number of tourists coming from both Slovakia and Austria also increased — from 140 to 190 thousand for Slovaks and from 166 to 264 thousand — for Austrians.

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Fake#5 Israel and Palestine had lived peacefully

Fake appearance date: 11.10.2023

Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, attacked Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7.

Militants captured Israeli border towns; many civilians were killed and wounded. Hamas took prisoners. Israel launched retaliatory air strikes and announced a ground military operation. 

Commenting on the news, Belarusian propagandist Yury Voskresensky, the director of the so-called Round Table of Democratic Forces, described relations between Palestine and Israel before the attack as more or less peaceful. 

“Shall solve this problem peacefully. After all, the neighboring to the Palestinian National Autonomy, to the state of Palestine, which is recognized by 138 countries, on the West Bank of the Jordan River, — showed that it is possible to live peacefully.

Well, at least for a while. They coexist more or less peacefully. Sometimes there were some of clashes when the Israeli side provokes them,” Voskresensky claimed on the air of the First National Channel of Belarusian Radio on October 11.

In the 1990s, Palestine and Israel signed agreements to resolve the conflict. In the mid-2000s, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Then the power of the radical organization Hamas, which sets itself the goal of destroying Israel, strengthened there.

Every year, Palestinians commit dozens of terrorist attacks in Israel. There have been 54 major attacks in 2021, resulting in the deaths of four Israelis. In 2022 — 86 with 30 deaths.

In response to Hamas' terrorist attacks, Israel conducted eight military operations in the Gaza Strip from 2006 to 2023.

The sole responsibility for any content supported by the European Media and Information Fund lies with the author(s) and it may not necessarily reflect the positions of the EMIF and the Fund Partners, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the European University Institute.

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