Poland: 18-24 July 2016 case 2

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Russian media claims the Kremlin saved Erdoğan from a coup d’état

Event: An article published 21 July 2016 on the Polish language portal for popular Radio RMF FM, “Did Russia warn Erdoğan about the coup d’état? Officially Moscow remains silent,” argued that Russia warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about the 15 July attempted coup led by parts of the Turkish army against him. Although some rebellious military units took to the streets of Ankara and Istanbul, most of the defense establishment remained faithful to the government and the coup was suppressed.

The false fact or narrative: The author, Przemysław Marzec, quoting Russian media, wrote that Russia had warned Erdoğan in advance. “Russian electronic intelligence allegedly intercepted suspicious correspondence between the Turkish military men and transmitted that information through special channels to the Turkish National Intelligence Organization,” he wrote.

Reality on the ground: Several Russian media outlets—including the state-owned news agency TASS, the newspaper Izvestia and the television channel REN-TV—spread this story, attributing it to the Iranian news agency FARS, which itself cited Arabic-language publications and their diplomatic sources in Ankara. FARS describes itself as the first independent Iranian information agency, yet it has often spread false, sensational stories. For example, in January 2014 it reported that the United States is governed by Nazi extraterrestrials. No Russian official has personally confirmed stories about Moscow having warned Erdoğan, who in fact told the TV network Al Jazeera in an interview that one of his relatives had tipped him off about the attempted coup.

Technique: The Russian press, perhaps with tacit official approval, voluntarily repeats a false story from abroad without adequate sourcing or context.  

Audiences: Russian and Polish public opinion.  

Analysis: Russia is likely spreading this claim about its spies allegedly warning Erdoğan of the impending coup to demonstrate the power and efficiency of its secret services. Since taking office, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been consistently building up the positive image of his intelligence agencies. The article presents them as efficient, extraordinarily skilful and determined in pursuing their goals. By implication, they would be equally effective at putting down any move against Putin.