Antifake / Factcheck

25 May 2023

Top 5 Fake News. Explosions in Khmelnytskyi cause a radioactive cloud to move to Europe

In Lublin, Poland, the level of radiation has increased, the Telegram channel after former Israeli intelligence officer Yakov Kedmi claimed. Belarusian and Russian state-run media picked up this message.

Fake#5. Explosions in Khmelnytskyi cause a radioactive cloud to move to Europe

Fake date: 16.05.2023

The Ukrainian full-scale counter-offensive has not yet begun, but mutual shelling is going from afar. On May 13, two Russian warplanes and two helicopters were downed in Bryansk, Russia.

Also, in occupied Luhansk, Ukrainians hit several previously inaccessible objects with the help of recently supplied long-range Storm missiles. As a result, the Armed Forces of Ukraine hit up one of the locations of Russian troops, said Igor Strelkov, a former separatist commander in the unrecognized DPR.

On the same day, Russian drones attacked the Khmelnytskyi region of Ukraine and, according to Russian media reports, destroyed an ammunition depot.

Old Soviet bombs were stored there, the Insider reports. And the Kremlin claims that these were depleted uranium tank shells, which the UK had previously supplied to Ukraine.

In Lublin, Poland, the level of radiation has increased, the Telegram channel after former Israeli intelligence officer Yakov Kedmi claimed. Belarusian and Russian state-run media picked up this message.

“In the east of Poland, radiation levels spiked in the air. Yesterday, in the air in Lublin, Bismuth levels spiked 6-7 times by instrumentation. Bismuth is the decay product of depleted uranium used in munitions. Poles wrote in comments that the radiation threat came from the Khmelnytskyi region, where a "geranium" strike on the morning of 13 May destroyed the 649th aircraft depot,” Kedmi reports and publishes the following screenshot.

The Maria Curie-Skłodowska University monitors the level of radiation in Lublin. Indeed, a spike in bismuth levels was recorded at 14:00 on May 15. In such a form, the data looks really intimidating.

However, based on bismuth data for 2023, such spikes are a fairly common story. They have happened quite often even before the explosions in Khmelnytskyi. They also have been before the war in Ukraine started.

Here is the bismuth levels data for the same period in 2021. Obviously, the previous spikes have been even more serious than the recent ones.

In response to our question about the causes of bismuth spikes, the university recommended that we look at its website.

Bismuth is in the air in the dust form. When it rains or snows, metal particles settle on measuring instruments. That is why at the beginning of the rain the bismuth level is fixed much higher than at the end when the rain washes it away from the devices.

Thus, the bismuth level spikes are of natural origin and don't pose a danger, the university said in a statement. It also said that this isotope is one of the decay products of natural uranium-238.

The news about the radioactive threat is disinformation, National Atomic Energy Agency officially announced on May 17.

However, a couple of days later, on May 19, the show went on. Secretary of the Security Council of Russia Nikolai Patrushev claimed that a radioactive cloud was moving from Ukraine to Europe.

“They also “helped” Ukraine by putting pressure on their satellites, and supplying depleted uranium ammunition. Its destruction led to the fact that the radioactive cloud headed toward Western Europe. And in Poland, a radiation level increase has already been fixed," Patrushev claimed

The BIC learned the data of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection of Germany. On May 19, no changes in the radiation level were recorded there. 

European Commission Joint Research Center measurements environmental radioactivity across Europe and also doesn't see any radioactive cloud impending.

By the way, on the Gamma Dose Rates Advanced Map, the highest level of 450 nanosieverts is shown near the town of Bragin, Belarus. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection confirms this information.

That is, the level of radiation there is twice as high as in Ukraine or the EU. 

Well, the last. To confirm both the rumors about the explosion of a warehouse with DU shells and the claims it created a risk of radioactive threat, the Komsomolskaya Pravda outlet analyzed the Ukrainian service's information about radiation measurements at the explosion site.

“Their words are indirectly confirmed by Ukrainian services that monitor the radiation level. On May 12, there was a spike from 60-80 nanosieverts (normal) to 140-160. It's not very high, but such a spike, and such a sharp... ” the outlet reported.

As our check shows, the level of radiation in Khmelnytskyi did rise, but a few days before the explosions mentioned in the article.

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Fake#4. Despite the sanctions, Belarus always reaches the planned economic level

Fake date: 17.05.2023

According to official statistics, the real incomes of Belarusians grew by 0.3% in the first quarter of 2023. On the state-run TV channel Belarus-1, Anatoly Nasenya, the Deputy of the House of Representatives, commented as follows:

“Good economists have always been needed. And given the facts that we have been working strategically under sanctions since 1994, our economic condition, the unprecedented sanctions that were imposed against our country last year, and the result that we finally have, — all this suggests that in this area everything is ok with our personnel. 

That is, one way or another, we reached the level of development that was planned.”

In fact, for the first time, the European Union imposed sanctions against Belarus on September 15, 1997.

Then the EU suspended the process of ratification of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Belarus and the EU, as well as the 1995 Interim Agreement on trade.

It was a reaction to the 1996 referendum in Belarus, which led to extending the powers of Alexander Lukashenko until 2001.

Also, achieving the planned economic development isn't going the way the deputy says.

For example, in 2010, at the IV Belarusian People's Congress, Lukashenko set a goal to reach an average salary of $1,000 by 2015. 

“By 2015, we should bring wages closer to $1,000. These are the highest rates of growth in wages and incomes of the population,” he said.

They haven't brought it closer even by 2023. In 2022, official statistics showed an all-time high for the $675 average salary.  

According to current indicators, last year's plans failed. Instead of a GDP growth of 2.9%, Belarus received a fall of 4.7%.

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Fake#3. Since it is not red line crossed, Putin did not respond to supply Ukraine with 250 km range missile  

Fake date: 12.05.2023

The UK has supplied Ukraine with 250 km range missiles that cause talks about crossed red lines in the war propaganda outlets.

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Kremlin-funded RT TV channel, has come to the defense of Vladimir Putin's repute, who is accused of not responding to crossed red lines. 

In the program “Own Truth” on NTV, she stated that the Russian president never forgives anyone for crossing the red lines, because he never marked them at all. 

“Recall me, please. I probably didn't follow the agenda well. Which of the Russian leaders at least once called what exactly the red line is?

Experts in this studio called it, telegram channels, someone else…

Could you recall when Putin said, "This and that is the red line"? 

And I'll say you then. He has not told it at all. Neither he nor the Minister of Defense told.

They said that there are red lines, but we can only guess, what is hidden under this wording,” Simonyan claimed.

Last year, Vladimir Putin did say that he wanted to keep the definition of the red lines a secret: 

“As for those red lines, let me keep that to myself because that would mean pretty tough action on our part, precisely in those decision-making centers, as I have already said, and which you mentioned.

But still, this is an area that should be left to the discretion, first of all, of the military-political leadership of the country.”

However, in March 2023, he acknowledged that the West had crossed those lines when it started supplying heavy weapons to Ukraine: 

“All these tanks, and fighter aircraft supplies, and now DU shells ammunition. It seems to many that these are not just red lines, these are burgundy lines, and they cross them.”  

Even before the war, Vladimir Putin called another red line: 

“If there are some strike systems on the territory of Ukraine with an approach to Moscow in 7—10 minutes, and in the case of hypersonic weapons it is 5 minutes … Then we will have to prepare a similar response to those who threaten us in this way.

And we can do it right now. Where are we going? Why are we doing this? And the creation of such threats for us is a red line.” 

Last October, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned the West about another red line, namely the supply of Kyiv with long-range missiles or more powerful weapons.

Storm Shadow missiles, delivered as military assistance to Ukraine in May 2023, hit objects at 250 km distance, that is, they are long-range.

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Fake#2. Nearly half of Poles oppose EU membership

Fake date: 15.05.2023

Belarusian propaganda TV channel Belarus-1 claims that in Poland the Euro-skeptics number exceeds the number of Euro-optimists. Allegedly 45% of Poles oppose EU membership. The reason for this is reportedly the economic crisis: 

“For the first time in the history of Poland, the number of Eurosceptics outnumbered the optimists. 

45% of citizens believe that EU membership threatens the country's sovereignty. 44% disagree. 

This poll indicates a change in public opinion. Sociologists believe that the economic crisis in the EU played a role here, and destroyed the myth of common European prosperity.”

Such a survey actually was in April 2023. And the reported numbers are correct. But the TV channel Belarus-1 distorted the wording of the question.

Respondents were asked whether they believe that EU membership unnecessarily limits their country's sovereignty. Approximately the same number of people said "no" and "yes".

But the majority is against Poland's exit from the EU even among those who believe that the EU unnecessarily limits Poland's sovereignty.

According to this poll, 85% of Poles support  Poland's EU membership. This is 7% less than last year, but still quite high. And only 10% are against it. Here is the real share of Eurosceptics.

The BIC compared this data with the latest Eurobarometer survey, which was conducted among Poles in the winter of 2023. Thus, 55% of respondents assess the EU positively, and only about 7% negatively.

The Poles are one of the most Euro-optimistic nations in the EU. 77% of Poles look positively at the future of the union.

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Fake#1. Polish truckers demand EU lift sanctions on Russia 

Fake date: 12.05.2023

Belarusian trucks en route from the EU to Belarus were blocked by Polish truckers in protest.

In this way, the Poles are seeking the ending of sanctions against Russia, claims Kirill Kazakov, editor-in-chief of the Belarusian state-run media Minsk Courier. Here's what he said:

«For what reason do Polish truckers strike? Because of the sanctions, the Russians banned Polish drivers from carrying goods to Russian territory. Accordingly, how is the transport system now arranged, say, from Paris to Moscow?

A French or Polish trucker delivers it to the border, then a Belarusian or Russian trucker arrives, attaches the cargo, and leaves.

Why Polish truckers are trying to block the checkpoint is unclear.

Because it seems like they demand to cancel it all». 

The guest of the studio, the metropolitan trade unionist Sergey Krysenko agrees with him:

«There, in principle, everything is logical. That is, you bring it to our territory. That is, you work on your territory.

But. Do you understand what it's like to drive in Russia? Maybe, 2-3 thousand kilometers is their income. And what is it to drive in Poland?»

The sanctions really affected Polish carriers. Only truckers did not demand the end of sanctions, but, on the contrary, tightening.

Here is how they themselves explained the reasons for the blockade at the border:

«We want to achieve our demands: a ban on Belarusian and Russian trailers, a ban on foreign capital from Russia, from Belarus to Poland. A ban on opening their companies. We want to do something with those companies that opened last year.»

In fact, the situation for Polish carriers is as follows. The European Union introduced a ban on trucks with Russian and Belarusian registration numbers.

Belarus and Russia responded similarly. Now European trucks can enter Belarus only to the nearest logistics center to reload the cargo there, then it is carried by a Belarusian or Russian carrier in Belarus or Russia. That is, everyone works in their own territory.

But the EU sanctions were bypassed. Trucks with Belarusian and Russian registration numbers are prohibited from entering the EU, but semi-trailers with such numbers are not.

Belarusians and Russians began to massively register transport companies in Poland. Thus they took a competitive advantage over the Poles.

“We, as Poles, are not allowed to pass through Belarus. While companies are opening in Poland that deliver goods as Polish carriers to transshipment warehouses in Belarus, and then transport them further in their semi-trailers as Belarusian, and Russian carriers, further into  Belarus, Russia.

We can no longer carry out such transportation,” Polish carriers say

That is, the cargo that follows, for example, from France to Russia, the Polish carrier can only deliver from Paris to the border with Belarus. And the Belarusian competitor with Polish registration can deliver straight from France to Russia without overloading the cargo. 

The Poles are unhappy that Poland registers transport companies with Eastern capital.

In early February, Polish carriers submitted a list of 63 companies to local authorities for proof.

According to the register of the General Inspectorate of Road Transport of Poland, both Belarusians and Russians or companies with Eastern capital act as carriers in these firms. 

Poland has applied to the European Commission with a request to include Belarusian and Russian semi-trailers in the package of sanctions and impose a ban on the registration of companies with Russian and Belarusian capital in Poland.

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