Disinformation: “Hundreds of coffins of NATO soldiers repatriated from Ukraine”

Disinformation: “Hundreds of coffins of NATO soldiers repatriated from Ukraine”

Last week, a false report spread on the internet announcing “hundreds of coffins of NATO soldiers repatriated from Ukraine”, of which “most of the victims would be members of the French Foreign Legion”.
This article reproduces the thread published on the Projet Fox’s Twitter/X account on 3 May 2024.

An American conspiracy theorist as a starting point

To support these assertions, which are neither officially sourced nor visually confirmable, the article relies on numerous details: strikes are said to have ‘targeted the French army’ in the town of Slavjansk, ‘the attacks killed around 40 soldiers and wounded around 300 others’, ‘most of the victims are said to be members of the French Foreign Legion’ etc… The article even states that a flight from Rzeszów to Châteauroux took place on 20 April, to evacuate the wounded ‘away from prying eyes’.

The first traces of these claims seem to date from 25 April, at least that’s when they appear on two ‘news’ websites supposedly based in the United States.
Firstly, the ‘Blazingpress’ site. This mainly covers North American news. Many of the articles on the site refer to ‘pseudo-prophetic’ and more generally conspiracy theories.

However, given the time of day that this article was shared on social networks, it is likely that it originated on the ‘halturnerradioshow’ website. This site stems from a radio programme hosted by Harold Turner, based in the state of New Jersey, as the information at the bottom of the page tells us. Here too, a number of articles regularly evoke conspiracy themes.

On Twitter, an account in the host’s name was the first to share this information. This account was created very recently, in April 2024.

Yet Harold C. Turner is already well known for spreading false information in the past. In 2016, he claimed that the start of World War 3 would take place ‘in 18 days’. In 2023, he announced plans for a Russian nuclear attack following a speech by Vladimir Putin on 21 February. In 2020 he was even pinned down by the Chinese Embassy in France when he spoke of ‘a nuclear explosion in the China Sea’.

As well as spreading false information, Harold Turner has been sentenced to prison for making death threats against judges and civil servants. Turner is also a Holocaust denier, a conspiracy theorist, a supremacist and a homophobe.

He is therefore a well-known disinformer. If anything, this reinforces the lack of credibility of the information about the deaths of French soldiers and the repatriation of hundreds of coffins. Nevertheless, the article on his site will be shared many times.

Internet and social networking relays with well-known pro-Russian positions

In fact, in the days that followed, several French websites took up the article word for word, adding in passing a section on “Catholic prophecies”. Articles in German and Dutch were also spotted.
All these sites regularly relay conspiracy and pro-Russian content.

Translation: This site is of course not linked to the French Gendarmerie Nationale.

It should also be noted that the Pravda website, whose Russian propaganda ecosystem was recently pinpointed in VIGINUM’s Portal Kombat report, was quick to relay this false information.

The article was also shared many times on social networks, sometimes by accounts with tens of thousands of followers, prompting thousands of reactions. At least fifty posts were made on Twitter.

The same pattern was seen on Facebook. Here too, at least fifty posts, which provoked numerous reactions, were listed. The article was also shared on Telegram in conspiracy, pro-Russian and “reinformation” channels.

This shows that despite all the points raised, false information can still reach hundreds of thousands of people. Almost every time, a piece of information from a little-known website or social networking account spreads, often with the help of well-known pro-Russia relays and/or networks of bots with the same objective. Few people will take the time to find out the source of this information, which once again has no verified content.

This is not the first time that a campaign of this type has been exploited. Also at the end of April, a video purporting to show the deployment of French military equipment in Odessa was shared on numerous occasions. In reality, the video was shot in Poland and showed Polish equipment.
Psychological warfare operations – PsyOps – for the benefit of Russia and targeting French soldiers have also surfaced in recent weeks, as Projet Fox has already reported.