This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
A provocative video that was making the rounds on pro-Kremlin social media on July 26 depicts a German family — father, mother, small son — sitting at home when stern-faced security officers appear at their door and begin confiscating everything they own to give as assistance to Ukraine, down to the mother’s earrings and the contents of the boy’s piggy bank.
The officials hang a portrait of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the family’s wall and compel them to repeat, “Heil, Zelenskiy!”
At the end, the 1-minute film reports that Germany has provided 22 billion euros ($24.2 billion) of assistance to Ukraine since 2022, before concluding with the officers confiscating the boy’s toy stuffed leopard, a reference to the advanced Leopard battle tanks Germany has sent to Kyiv in recent months to fight off Russia’s massive invasion. “If you are at home in NATO, learn to expect NATO in your home,” the clip cautions.
Although there is no information in the video about who produced it, some of the Russian social-media channels distributing it claimed it was made by the far-right German political party Alternative for Deutschland (AfD).
However, the video itself does not mention Alternative for Germany, there was no reference to the video on the party’s website.
AfD did not immediately respond to a request for comment from RFE/RL.
Using facial-recognition software, RFE/RL’s Russian Service has identified the actors appearing in the clip as professional Russian actors. The matches were given the highest possible scores, leaving little room for doubt and strongly indicating that the video was produced in Russia.
One of the German security agents was played in the clip by Russian actor Igor Alekseyev.
In December 2022, Vorobyov appeared in a pro-Kremlin propaganda video making the claim that Europe would freeze without access to Russian energy. It was unclear who produced that video, which was also widely shared on social media sites.
And the mother is played by actress Yulia Konyukhova.
A now-deleted post on Konyukova’s Instagram account claimed the clip was produced by the Russian state television channel RT. Konyukova wrote in the same post that the young boy in the clip was played by her son, Svyatoslav.
When RFE/RL asked Konyukova about the post, she denied the account was hers and then stopped responding to messages.
The stern-faced female leader of the German security troops in the video was played by Russian actress Yulia Mandriko.
The soundtrack music is a 2011 song called Whistling March by The Diner.
The video opens with a stock photograph of a German house that was taken in 2017 and is available for commercial use.
Among those who reposted the video were Armen Gasparyan, a member of President Vladimir Putin’s advisory Public Council; the Russian-language service of RT; and the RuTube channel RuNews24. The latter asserted directly that the video was produced by AfD.
The pro-Kremlin Telegram channel Ostashko! Vazhnoye, hosted by Channel One state television host Ruslan Ostashko, posted the video, commenting vaguely “they write that the video was created by members of the Alternative for Deutschland party.”
A war correspondent for the pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya pravda, Aleksandr Kots, posted the video on Telegram and called it “an excellent shot in the information war.”
In style and tone, the video strongly resembles other apparent pro-Kremlin propaganda efforts of recent years. In 2018, apparently to boost turnout for the March presidential election that year, a blatantly homophobic video was anonymously circulated in which a man who doesn’t vote dreams that a law has been passed compelling families to provide “foster homes” for gays.
In 2020, when Putin organized a national plebiscite on a huge raft of changes to the constitution, including language defending conservative social values, a homophobic video appeared that crudely attacked adoption by same-sex couples. That video was produced by the Federal News Agency (FAN), which was controlled by controversial businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who also controls the Wagner mercenary group and led an armed anti-government mutiny in June.