Russia distorting photos for propaganda purposes, Roma nonprofits alert Ukrainian authorities
Photographs from Lviv, Ukraine in which several Romani people are shown as bound with their backs against pillars and with green paint on their faces are being disseminated through social media along with the untrue claim that the individuals in the photographs are internally displaced people from Kyiv who were unjustifiably attacked by local Ukrainians immediately upon arrival in Lviv. However, as the Romea.cz news server has discovered, the actual context of the photos is something else.
The people are allegedly members of a group of pickpockets, and during recent looting in Lviv they were apprehended by vigilantes and treated in this unacceptable way. Russian propaganda is now claiming these photographs confirm that neo-Nazis are active in Ukraine.
"The people in the photos have been caught in Kyiv for pickpocketing several times. Their photos have been taken and shared by several groups that publicize such cases. In Lviv there is a group calling themselves ‘The Hunters’ who persecute Romani people involved in pickpocketing in public places," Julian Kondur, a young Roma activist from Ukraine, told news server Romea.cz.
"Russia is exploiting this to accuse Ukraine of allegedly being run by neo-Nazis. The images have been distributed on the Telegram social media company by an account run by agents of Russia," Kondur said.
The account in question is named for Vladimir Solovyev, a journalist and propagandist for Putin in Russia. The Romea.cz news server has learned that Roma non-profit organizations from Ukraine have already asked the relevant Government authorities to respond to the cases and punish all those involved in illegal activity.
Ukrainian Police have already identified several of the attackers who tied up the Romani people. According to Kondur, it is very important that the competent authorities in Ukraine pay more attention than ever to eliminating hate speech and hate-motivated violence of this kind.
"It damages our international image and creates opportunities for the [Russian] aggressor to manipulate it,” Kondur told Romea.cz. The brutal methods used by vigilantes punishing looters were described for public broadcaster Czech Television by reporter Tomáš Vlach, who described them as harsh.
Those suspected of looting are stripped naked, bound to public light poles, and then abandoned. "These are the laws of war. My colleagues and I attempted to find out what was driving people to these brutal methods against those disturbing the peace and we concluded that there is a role being played here by old Cossack traditions and laws that used to designate this punishment," Vlach reported for Czech Television.
According to the reporter, such people are abandoned until police arrive and begin criminal investigation proceedings with them in a standard way. "We also heard allegations that such people will be transferred to the front, to the front line, and that they will dig trenches under fire there," the Czech Television reporter said.
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