The burning of the Koran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm resulted in loud protests in Turkey – and slowed down the Swedish NATO process.

Inspired by the action in Sweden, Russian intelligence has planned fake protests in a number of European cities. SVT, in collaboration with the investigative editorial staff Dossier Center and several other media, has taken note of documents from inside Russian intelligence that describe the influence campaigns.

Instruction: Insult Erdogan

One of the documents describes the divisions between Turkey and the EU countries, the turbulent NATO process and the burning of the Koran in Sweden. This is followed by instructions on how to use "local residents or migrants" to fuel the conflicts by recording and distributing videos of the Turkish flag being burned or Erdogan being insulted.

The aim is for Turkish and European media to report on the actions.

Another document describes one of these operations carried out in Paris on 5 March this year. Photos show "protesters" giving Nazi salutes in front of banners adorned with the Ukrainian flag and messages critical of Erdogan. The report also contains around 60 links to social platforms such as Facebook, Tiktok and Youtube where videos from the action were spread.

"The Koran burning that Paludan carried out in Sweden in January is a building block on which this campaign is based," Valentyna Shapovalova, who researches Russian disinformation and propaganda at the University of Copenhagen, told Danish broadcaster DR.

Fake demonstrations

By examining the network that disseminated the videos, we find ten EU, NATO and Ukrainian actions that can be suspected of being staged since December 2022.

"This is interesting information and it is in line with what we have seen in terms of Russian influence against Sweden and against Western countries," said Gabriel Wernstedt, spokesman for SAPO.

The picture to the left was taken in Paris in February. On the right, the exact same placard is photographed in Madrid the next day. The demonstrations going on in the background have nothing to do with the Ukraine war. In total, we find ten staged actions in Paris, Madrid, The Hague and Brussels. Photo: Facebook

One of the men, whose Facebook profile was instrumental in spreading the material, denies any involvement on the phone and claims that his account was hacked a while ago. But shortly after the call ends, his social media accounts are deleted along with a number of other accounts that have been propulsive.