A year-long investigation into potential Russian interference with German politics has failed to uncover evidence of Kremlin-backed meddling, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported Monday.
German intelligence authorities found no concrete proof of disinformation campaigns targeting the government and have decided against publishing the 50-page report to avoid further straining relations with Moscow, according to SZ.
Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered the investigation in the aftermath of the “Lisa case,” in which a 13-year-old Russian-German girl was reported to have been abducted and raped by migrant men, sparking protests in Germany and diplomatic warnings from Russia’s foreign minister, before the girl admitted the story was false.
The intelligence report stressed Russia has been on a “confrontational path” against Germany since 2014 and that its media, such as Sputnik News and RT Deutsch, is “hostile.”
But reports that the “Lisa case” protests were orchestrated by Russian state actors could not be backed up, the report found.
Ahead of federal elections in September, German intelligence officials are worried about covert Kremlin-led campaigns such as cyberattacks, but also overt attempts to influence public debate.
Last month, the EU’s East StratCom Task Force, set up to combat Russian fake news, found Merkel was increasingly a key target of disinformation campaigns due to her policy toward refugees.
Original news report:
No evidence for Putin’s disinformation campaign – SuedDeutsche.com
- Federal news service and constitutional protection have been searching for clear evidence of Russia’s political interference in Germany for a year.
- The background is the concern that Russia – as allegedly already done in the US – could intervene in the elections, for example by publishing secret documents
- The investigation was commissioned by Chancellor Angela Merkel after “Fall Lisa”.
German intelligence agencies have not found any clear evidence for a Russian disinformation campaign against the federal government, but they do not give an all-clear. According to information from Süddeutscher Zeitung , NDR and WDR, this is the result of nearly one year’s investigation by the Bundesnachrichtendienst ( BND ) and the Federal Office for Constitutional Protection (BfV). Original reflections, which were categorized as secret curses, were at least partially published.
“We have not found any smoking gun,” the government said, trying to find a striking evidence of Russia’s political interference. The government would have liked to present such a proof in order to warn Russia about this type of action. “We would have liked to draw the yellow card,” says a security expert. However, given the lack of evidence, it would not make sense to publish the 50-page intelligence paper. This would have put a further strain on the already tense relationship with Russia.
However, the Chancellor’s Office ordered the investigation to be further investigated. For the report of the special evaluation “Sputnik” of the BfV and the work group “Psychological Operations” of the BND, which is subdivided into 13 chapters, is also not an acquittal from the government’s point of view. He analyzes Russia’s “more confrontational course” against Germany since 2014 and calls the reporting of Russian media and their German offshoots such as RT Deutsch or Sputnik News “hostile”.
“Fall Lisa”: rape by “Südländer” turned out to be invented
The German secret services are directly responsible for such attempts to influence the Kremlin’s presidential administration. It is difficult, however, to draw the line between exaggerated and false reporting and disinformation, the report said. State treatment of this phenomenon represents a “new challenge” and must be further investigated.
The background is the concern that Russia – as allegedly already in the US – could intervene in the elections, for example, by publishing secret documents captured by hacker attacks or by helping right-wing populist parties. With France and the Netherlands, where elections are also pending, the German intelligence services now agreed to cooperate closely.
The investigation was commissioned by Chancellor Angela Merkel after “Fall Lisa”. Russian media and politicians had caused a stir after the alleged rape of a 13-year-old Russian-German by “Südländer”, demonstrations, including the Chancellor’s Office. Later it turned out that the girl had invented the story. It was initially assumed that Russian government agencies or intelligence services orchestrated protests. But this could not be proven “in any of the cases,” the report says.