Two weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, the general consensus appears to be that the Kremlin has lost the information war.That call is likely very premature at best, but it’s clear the Russian government’s efforts to convince its own citizens that Ukraine is the aggressor, and that the Kremlin is justified in bombing a sovereign nation, are becoming increasingly desperate.
For example, the Kremlin’s latest claim is that the U.S. has trained an army of migratory birds to carry bioweapons developed by the Ukrainian army, and that said birds are preparing to fly into Russia and deploy those bioweapons.This message wasn’t seeded on some fringe message board by a conspiracy theory-addled extremist: It was boosted by Major General Igor Konashenkov, the chief spokesman for the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, who was speaking on camera Thursday about this outrageous (and entirely fictional) plot.There’s no point really engaging in this delusion, but, for the record, birds cannot be trained to attack targets in Russia, or anywhere else, with bioweapons.
Pigeons were famously used in both World Wars for sending communications and there was also Project Pigeon, a U.S. Army experiment in which pigeons were trained to sit inside missiles in an attempt to guide the weapons to their targets. It never worked. Konashenkov attempted to back up his bogus theory by releasing a cache of documents that he said proved the U.S. was working with Ukraine to create bioweapons—a claim that’s been thoroughly debunked.“The purpose of this—and other Pentagon-funded biological research in Ukraine—was to establish a mechanism for the stealthy spread of deadly pathogens,” Konashenkov said in a televised briefing, the Moscow Times reported.
He claimed that the U.S. was researching how to use birds, bats, and reptiles as vectors for spreading deadly diseases such as anthrax and African swine fever.The latest unhinged theory is simply an embellishment of the overarching conspiracy coming from the Kremlin that Russia is fighting the war to stop the Ukrainian government from developing nuclear weapons or bioweapons, even though there’s no evidence the Ukrainians are doing that.Konashenkov has been seeding these theories for days now.Earlier this week he declared—without proof— that Ukrainian nationalists delivered about 80 tons of ammonia to a location near Kharkiv as part of a “false flag” operation that would see them blame Russia for a chemical attack.The claim that the U.S. was working with Ukraine on developing bioweapons has taken hold among far-right groups, and Tucker Carlson even boosted it on his top-rated Fox News show this week. The documents released Thursday contain nothing to back up the claims Konashenkov made, yet they’re already being shared widely on far-right and conspiracy channels on the encrypted messaging platform Telegram as further “proof” that Putin’s actions are justified. The documents have been posted in groups supporting the trucker convoys as well as numerous QAnon-linked channels.And this is exactly what the Kremlin wants. Even though the Russian government knows what it’s saying is patently false, it also knows there’s an appetite among certain right-wing groups abroad to seize on any suggestion that Putin is conducting a just war, and therefore they will willingly share these claims. The result is that the Kremlin continues to drive a wedge between left and right in the U.S., even when it claims that birds are being trained to carry bioweapons.Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.