- It’s not true that the weather forecast on Polish TV channel TVP1 showed a map of the country with annexed territories from Western Ukraine.
- The widely shared photo in social media has been manipulated.
- Such disinformation attacks against Poland have been Russia’s practice since 2014.
On January 18, 2023, a photo is published on the personal Facebook profile of Boyan Chukov. The photo is claimed to be from the weather forecast of one of the channels of the Polish public broadcaster – TVP1. In the photo, the map of Poland has been modified, adding part of the western territories of Ukraine.
The post has over 900 interactions (likes, shares and comments).
Factcheck.bg gathered the facts on the subject after a signal from reader Nikola Petkov.
Timeline of the manipulation
The Polish broadcaster TVP, accused of having used the map, reacted with a rebuttal to the actively shared photo as early as January 18, 2023.
“The material is manipulated and aims to convince the Russian public of the theses propagated by Moscow. Such a map has never been broadcast on TVP, and the logo of the television is additionally added”, the official statement of the television said.
The image is manipulated on several layers.
The real image of a weather forecaster was used, but not from TVP, but from another Polish TV channel – TV Trwam. The silhouette of the weather presenter is most likely taken from the March 27, 2020 forecast, where the anchor wears the same dress. In the manipulated photo, her silhouette is mirrored.
It is clear, however, that the background on which the forecast on TV Trwam runs has nothing to do with the map from the misleading photo. The map where parts of Western Ukraine are annexed to Poland has been added in place of the original background.
TVP’s statement further states that their logo has been installed in place of the TV Trwam logo.
This is what the real TVP1 studio looks like:
The Polish fact-checking platform Demagog also found that the photo was manipulated. They also note misspellings in the Polish text on the map. Instead of the Polish Białoruś (Belarus) we read Bialorus and instead of Lwów (Lviv) we read Lwow.
Stanislaw Zaryn, the government representative for the security of the information space of Poland, also made a special comment on the case. According to him, the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign against Poland has something to do with the planned mass mobilization in Russia. Zaryn believes that the authorities in Moscow aim to convince Russian society that there is a real military threat from Poland, thereby motivating the need for additional mobilization.
The path of the manipulated photo
A check through the WeVerify platform shows that the photo with the “new” map of Poland is being shared on different channels and among users of different nationalities. In the Russian Telegram channel „ZOV – Своих не бросаем“ a post with the photo has over 8000 views.
On Twitter, the same photo is being shared with similar descriptions in German, English, Russian, Chinese.
“Warsaw has no intention of backing down from its plans for the annexation of territories from Western Ukraine, the Polish population is gradually being told that Lviv and the territories around it are Polish territories”, says the article in „Военное обозрение“,
The text also says that, according to some experts, Zelensky will repay Poland for the aid provided during the war with the Western Ukrainian territories.
Similar suggestions are made in an article on the Russian website iz.ru. The text recalls a speech by the Russian president Vladimir Putin on December 7, 2022, in which he warned that Polish nationalists wanted to return “historical territories that Ukraine received after World War II”.
In this speech, Putin also says that currently the only guarantor of Ukraine’s territorial integrity is Russia, which has helped to protect the western territories of the country.
Poland – at the center of Russian propaganda about Ukraine
The strained relations between Poland and Russia have their historical context. The two countries have shared a common border at various historical periods. Large parts of the territory of today’s Ukraine fell into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which existed between the 16th and 18th centuries. Against this background, Russia is trying to insinuate that other countries neighboring Ukraine want to get back their “historical” territories in order to justify one of its reasons for invading Ukraine.
Thus, Warsaw’s “desire” and “unconcealed intentions” to annex the regions of Western Ukraine to its territory became the basis of Russia’s anti-Polish propaganda.
However, these suggestions are far from new and did not originate with the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022.
Back in 2014, a few days after the Russian Federation annexed the Crimean Peninsula, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland received an official letter from the State Duma with a proposal to divide the territory of Ukraine.
The letter was sent by the then Deputy Speaker of the State Duma and leader of the far-right LDPR formation Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
The territories “offered” to Poland are the five western regions of Ukraine: Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Rivne and Volyn. The Polish authorities defined the proposal as “curious”.
Similar “offers” were also sent to Romania and Hungary. They refer to Transcarpathia and Chernivtsi region.
The map, which the Polich public broadcaster used in 2014 to illustrate the proposal of Zhirinovsky, began to be used by Russian media as part of Kremlin propaganda for the war in Ukraine. The manipulated map currently circulating is very similar to the one from 2014. The main difference is that the eastern territories of Ukraine are now marked as part of Russia.
The story of Poland’s “dirty intentions” towards Ukraine continues in 2022. A month after the attack on Ukraine, an article appeared on the Russian website iz.ru with the following title: A former member of the Verkhovna Rada showed a map of the partition of Ukraine by other countries.
The text creates the impression that the “map” is part of plans by Poland, Hungary and Romania to appropriate areas from Ukraine that historically fell within their territory.
The image is claimed to be shared by the former Ukrainian MP Illia Volodymyrovych Kyva. A few days before the publication, Kyva was suspended from the Ukraian parliament for his pro-Russian statements since the beginning of the invasion. According to unconfirmed information circulating on social media, Kyva is currently settled in Russia.
One of the more recent disinformation campaigns against Poland in the context of the war in Ukraine dates back to September 2022. At that time, Russian Telegram channels shared photos of ballots allegedly issued by the Polish State Election Commission. The texts to the photos suggest that Warsaw will hold a referendum on joining the city of Lviv to Poland. At the same time, Russia is holding illegal referendums in four regions in Eastern Ukraine.
Polish media outlet Demagog refutes claims of a planned referendum in Lviv and has contacted the Polish State Election Commission for comment.
“I want to inform you that the information about preparations for a supposed referendum, including the printing or mailing ballots by the State Election Commission, is false. I want to clarify that the Commission has never used the stamps and seals shown in the photos”, says Grzegorz Gąsior, an expert from the Electoral Commission.
The Polish foundation “Center for the Study of the Modern Security Environment”, established in 2021 in Krakow, regularly publishes analyzes of the spread of Russian propaganda in the country. Most of them are available in both Polish and Russian.
In the latest one, dated December 6, 2022, the foundation warns of increased activity in anti-Polish narratives on the part of Russia. The analysis notes that particular activation is observed after the incident on November 15, 2022, when an unidentified rocket fell near the town of Przewodow, near the Polish-Ukrainian border. According to the foundation’s observations, this incident was used by the Russian propaganda machine to create the impression of tension and mistrust between Kyiv and Warsaw.
The analysis shows that the main and most frequently used propaganda narrative is that Poland is trying to annex the western regions of Ukraine. One of the suggestions along these lines is that the “Polish mercenaries fighting in Ukraine” will in the future turn against the Ukrainians and launch their plan to occupy the western territories of the country. The foundation notes that one of the culminations moments in anti-Polish propaganda in recent months was from the Unity Day in Russia – November 4, when in his speech Russian president Vladimir Putin once again spoke about the “plans” of Poland, Hungary and Romania to occupy their “historical” parts of Ukraine.
It is not true that the weather forecast on Polish TV shows the map of Poland with annexed territories from Western Ukraine. The photo is manipulated and this has been proven by TVP1 itself.
Similar disinformation attacks against Poland have been Russia’s practice since 2014.
Translated by Vanessa Nikolova