“My daughter,” says the mother, “is not doing well.” When SPIEGEL and SPIEGEL TV met the family a week ago last Thursday, the girl was in the hospital. “She has been in the psychiatric ward since Monday.”Nothing has been the same for the family since the 13-year-old girl disappeared one morning on her way to school. The case has become an international political issue since it was picked up by Russian media and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attacked the German authorities investigating it.
As the saying goes, truth is the first casualty of war. This is especially true of the propaganda war Moscow has been waging against the West and its open societies since the crisis in Ukraine began. The 13-year-old girl and her disappearance have become a weapon in this war. According to the Russian version of the story, the case has all the necessary ingredients: the rape of a teenage girl, violent refugees, police that use political correctness as an excuse not to investigate and politicians who are afraid of the truth. This is the story Moscow is telling, regardless of the facts.
Russia Accuses Germany of ‘Cover-Up’ – Russia gives the West a taste of his own medicine
The Kremlin is now portraying itself as an advocate for the girl. The Russian Embassy in Berlin sent a verbal note to the German Foreign Ministry at the beginning of last week. The letter, with one page written in Russian, contains the usual pleasantries, but the overall tone is aggressive. The Russian diplomats demanded that the case be fully investigated, adding that they did not understand why the matter was being kept quiet.
On Tuesday, Lavrov publicly accused the German authorities of a “cover-up,” saying they were “whitewashing reality to make it politically correct.” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier reacted sharply, calling Moscow’s reaction “political propaganda.” On Wednesday, Russian Ambassador Vladimir Grinin was summoned and lectured on the status of the investigation.
Nevertheless, as the propaganda battle continued, the version in which the girl was allegedly raped still circulated on the Internet. Security experts believe that Russia has greatly expanded its propaganda campaigns against the West, including Germany, in recent years. They represent the Kremlin’s attempt to manipulate public opinion in the West, stir up conflict and destabilize Western societies. President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, and his team are using tricks from the intelligence agency’s playbook to conduct foreign policy. The “old methods” of the KGB — disinformation and destabilization — are blatantly on display once again, says Hans-Georg Maassen, president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service.
These methods were already evident in the Ukraine crisis, as Russia deployed television stations and so-called trolls to spread propaganda on the Internet and cast aspersions on Western media for being kept on a tight leash. Russian propaganda falls on fertile ground in the West, where distrust of politicians and the media is widespread. Many believe that the established media, disparaged as the Lügenpresse, or “lying press,” are withholding the truth. In Germany, 44 percent of the population harbors such reservations, according to a survey by the polling company Forsa.