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Kremlin-linked propaganda: 'Millions of Syrians returning, thanks to Russia' Open in fullscreen

Karim Traboulsi

Kremlin-linked propaganda: 'Millions of Syrians returning, thanks to Russia'

'Thanks to Russian airstrikes, millions of Syrians are returning home'...or are they? [AFP]

Date of publication: 12 November, 2015

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Blog: Russian officials are making outrageous claims about millions of Syrians returning home, even as the UN has said tens of thousands more were displaced because of Russian airstrikes.
More than one million Syrians have returned home since Russian airstrikes began on September 30, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov claimed on Wednesday, in statements quoted by Sputnik, a Russian government-owned news outlet.

"Since the beginning of Russian operations, according to UN structures, more than one million people have returned to their homes in Syria," Meshkov claimed.

This is not the first time Russian officials have made such controversial claims.

Last week, UK tabloid The Express, quoting Russian politician Dmitry Sablin, said Russia's "bid to wipe out" the Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS) "has been so successful that almost a million Syrians have elected to return to their homeland".

The Russian senator had recently visited Syria.

"People in Syria are now discussing their future," he said.

"They want to rebuild their country. People are now walking safely through the streets of Damascus. There are fountains and restaurants open. Before Russia engaged it was terrifying to live there."
     There is nothing to substantiate claims Syrians are returning in droves


Russian media blitz


The Russian officials' statements notwithstanding, there is nothing to substantiate claims Syrians are returning in droves to their country, in fact, all evidence points to quite the contrary.

According to the UN, tens of thousands have fled new Russian-backed regime offensives in several parts of Syria, while hundreds of civilians are reported to have died in Russian airstrikes.

Instead, it is likely the new claims are part of Russia's formidable propaganda efforts, which have continued since the start of the Syrian revolution against Moscow's ally Bashar al-Assad, and intensified further following Russia's direct intervention in September.

Russia seems to have learned a great deal from US-style military propaganda that accompanied Washington's ill-fated interventions in the Middle East.

Russia Today, the Kremlin-backed crown jewel of Moscow's multilingual propaganda machine, has sent embedded film crews with Russian troops in Syria, sending round-the-clock videos directly from the front.

Another feature of Russian propaganda in Syria is the use of blanket terms such as "ISIS", "al-Qaeda", and "terrorists" to describe all factions fighting the regime in Syria - despite their diverse backgrounds and affiliations - which echoes the language of both the Russian and Syrian governments.

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