BRIEF: dr.dk reports that a Quran burning inspired Russian intelligence to stage fake protests
dr.dk • May 7, 2023
Fake protests inspired by Quran burning in Sweden
Fake protesters set fire to Turkish flags. They spray-painted Erdogan-critical messages at bus stops. They also staged a protest in the city center.
- The protests were inspired by Rasmus Paludan's Quran burning in Sweden, says dr.dk (DR). TASS covered the situation in Jan 2023 in an article, “Turkey opens investigation into Rasmus Paludan who burned Quran in Sweden.”
- Rasmus Paludan, the founder of Stram Kurs, filmed a Quran burning in Stockholm, and this burning is directly referenced in the leaked documents. Paludan denies any connection to Russia. The Georgetown Bridge Initiative described Paludan:
- Documents say masked protestors should "step on Turkey's flag" and "write insulting statements about Erdogan.” Events like this were recorded and spread on social media.
- In response to the Jan 2023 burning, Erdogan said Sweden could not join NATO. Associated Press covered Erdogan’s response:
Paludan has a documented history of racist and Islamophobic rhetoric, as well as engaging in sexually explicit conversations with minors.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed Wednesday that Turkey won’t allow Sweden to join the NATO military alliance as long as the Scandinavian country permits protests desecrating Islam’s holy book to take place.
Spread of content and potential impact
- A protest in Paris was photographed and filmed. Content using this material then appeared on YouTube and Facebook. Social media posts of the Paris protests were traced to two North African men living in Saint Petersburg. The two men had also spread content from demonstrations in The Hague, Brussels, and Madrid.
- Valentyna Shapovalova, from the University of Copenhagen, observed the significant impact of the Paris campaign, which was covered by mainstream media. Such campaigns are part of a larger ecosystem that attempts to spread content to credible sources where the content will gain legitimacy.
- Shapovalova noted that using real people in photos and videos of the actions increases their credibility. Effective propaganda and disinformation campaigns rely on a foundation of truth rather than solely inventing disinformation and spreading it on social media.
The authenticity of documents from DR’s article
Several European intelligence services reviewed the documents obtained by DR and found them authentic. DR argues that it cannot publish the papers or the name of the Russian intelligence officer or service for security reasons. Swedish intelligence service states this campaign is consistent with other Russian campaigns to create discord in the EU and NATO.
- A review of European demonstrations showed participants holding placards with identical messages, including the same spelling errors. The signs called for an end to aid to Ukraine. In some cities, participants also attended anti-Ukrainian demonstrations.
- Experts assessing documents for DR believe Russian intelligence behind Erdogan's campaign may have also planned anti-Ukrainian demonstrations.
DR collaborated with Dossier Center, Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Expressen, NRK, and SVT.
According to DR, the publication from which this brief was sourced, “DR's core task [is] to support democracy, contribute to Danish culture and strengthen communities in Denmark. We have an obligation to reach all groups in the population and will do everything to ensure that Danish content can continue to stand strong and reach everyone in Denmark.”