“It’s not a joke at all. In Ukraine, they are already mobilizing 60-year-olds and dragging them away in handcuffs. It’s because they’ve already killed the others. They need imported cannon fodder…”
“That’s it, it starts slowly. Ukraine has run out of men, they are starting from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and will include them in the meat grinder”
“What protection? I DO NOT have sons for cannon fodder!!!”
Right after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, false and misleading statements related to an allegedly prepared mobilization in Bulgaria began to spread among Bulgarian users online.
Chronology of the disinformation about the mobilization in Bulgaria
February 25, 2022
Screenshot of summons orders from the Burgas region
It’s implemented that this is a preparation for an upcoming mobilization in the country. The Ministry of Defense denies those claims.
January 19, 2023
A question from the caretaker government to the Constitutional Court is being interpreted as a preparation for a mobilization
The caretaker government wants to know if the Constitution bans the possibility of a mandatory military training for the military reserve force in times of peace. This is being interpreted as a preparation for mobilization in several social media publications.
January 24, 2023
“It’s not a joke at all (…) They need imported cannon fodder…”
The sharing of summons orders continues in 2023 despite the fact that the Ministry of Defense has disproved those claims several times.
A change in the Law on Defense and Armed Forces is used as an “evidence” for an upcoming mobilization
The changes are linked to the structure of the regulation of Bulgarian participation in international military and defense missions in and outside of the country and not to the preparation of mobilization, as it is claimed in social media publications.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has repeatedly denied rumors of an upcoming mobilization of civilian men in Bulgaria. However, this has not prevented the spread of misinformation on the subject to this day.
A presidential decree from February 2023 is one of the most recent occasions used for the renewal of the disinformation on mobilization online. A screenshot of Decree No. 34 of 2023 with amendments to the Law on Defense and Armed Forces of the Republic of Bulgaria is being shared in comments under publications.
The changes are related to the regulation of sending Bulgarian military personnel to international military and defense missions in and outside the country. All reasons for the amendments can be seen on the website of the National Assembly.
The bill was passed on February 1, 2023, by the 48th Parliament with 127 votes in favor, 1 against and 18 abstentions.
There is no reason to believe that these changes are some sort of a sign of future mobilization in the country or the sending of Bulgarian soldiers to Ukraine, as some users have claimed online.
In fact, mobilization in Bulgaria can only be announced with a decision of the National Assembly and a presidential decree.
The Bulgarian army is professional, and compulsory military service was abolished in 2008. The country’s armed forces have two types of military reserve forces.
Enrollment in the first one is voluntary, with military training following enrollment. These Bulgarian citizens receive one monthly salary per year and do not have the right to refuse a call for training or missions. When summoned, for that period they are paid as a professional soldier.
The second type of military reserve includes those Bulgarian citizens who went through conscription before its cancellation, former professional soldiers, those who underwent voluntary military training and citizens with specific professions.
The Central Military District and its structures around the country are updating the database of people from the reserve, who are kept on military records. A summons order is sent for this purpose. After receiving it, citizens must report to the relevant military unit and provide the necessary up-to-date data on height, weight and clothing and shoe sizes. The activity is routine and occurs twice a year.
Failure to appear in the military district after a summons order is punishable by a fine of BGN 270 to BGN 1,000 according to Art. 95 of the Law on the Reserve of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Bulgaria.
The disinformation about the mobilization of civilians was accompanied by the false claim that Bulgarian soldiers would fight in Ukraine. In February, representatives of Bulgarian political parties used the suggestion that the Council of Ministers had allowed the sending of Bulgarian military personnel to Ukraine. Factcheck.bg found this to be false.
The false claims of a prepared mobilization in Bulgaria are part of an extensive disinformation campaign focused primarily on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
The presidential elections in the Czech Republic at the beginning of 2023 were one of the latest examples of the use of “scary information”. Andrej Babiš and Petr Pavel faced each other in the runoff. Andrej Babiš is a billionaire and former Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, and his position on the war in Ukraine can be summed up by those quotes: “I am the only one who seeks peace” and ” I won’t drag Czechia into a war”. Petr Pavel on the other hand is a former general who served as the chairman of the NATO Military Committee.
After the first round of the elections, screenshots of an SMS, allegedly sent personally by the candidate Petr Pavel, began to circulate among Czech users online. In the message, he thanked for the received vote and called on the recipient to report to the nearest military unit in order to receive the necessary armament for the upcoming mobilization in Ukraine. The purpose of this “attack” is to reinforce fears that the election of a former NATO general as president of the Czech Republic poses a risk of involving the country in the war in Ukraine.
Petr Pavel won the presidential election in the Czech Republic in a runoff.
Poland is one of the main victims of Russian propaganda, including on the subject of the supposed mobilization. At the beginning of this year, a Russian campaign aimed at illegally collecting the data of Ukrainians in Poland was established. To accomplish this goal, letters and messages are sent to the people, disguised to appear as if they were issued by Polish ministries and other government institutions. The messages are sent under the pretext that Poland is creating a database in link to a prepared mobilization. Stanisław Zaryn – the government plenipotentiary for the security of the information space of the Republic of Poland, warns that this is another attempt by Russian propaganda to attack his country.
In February, the Russian television channel Russia-1 spread the false information that Poland was mobilizing tankers to fight in Ukraine for “originally Polish lands”.
The information quickly began to spread in Polish on Facebook. The “evidence” presented is a billboard from the Warsaw subway. Demagog fact-checkers found that the photo was manipulated, and the Polish army was not conducting a mobilization of any kind.
In the same period, other false claims about the mobilization in Poland were also shared. In one of the cases, the source is a marginal Polish website that actively spreads pro-Russian narratives. There appears the information that Polish men are fleeing the country because of the mobilization of civilian men. Delfi fact checkers refute these claims. A few days later, news about the mobilization in Poland, which practically does not exist, continue appearing in the Russian media.
Again in February, a message was actively republished on Twitter, according to which Ukrainian refugees in Poland would be mobilized to their homeland. Fakehunter fact-checkers found these claims to be absolutely false and the product of Russian propaganda. The law in Ukraine does not allow the mobilization of Ukrainians beyond the territories of the country.
Currently, mobilization is taking place only on the territory of the two countries that are directly involved in the war – Ukraine and Russia. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the number of mobilized civilian men is about 300,000, but there is no independent source that can confirm the exact number. Since the beginning of 2023, there have been rumors of a second mobilization in Russia. According to Ukrainian intelligence services, Moscow could mobilize another 500,000 men.
Translated by Vanessa Nikolova