Fact Check

Did a Massive, Pro-Russian Demonstration Occur in Poland in Spring 2023?

Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, endless false information has been shared online about Ukraine — and its neighboring countries.

Published June 5, 2023

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Claim:
A pro-Russian demonstration took place in Poland on June 4, 2023.

On June 4, 2023, Poles celebrated a Freedom and Civil Rights Day to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the first partially free parliamentary elections in Poland after World War II. On that day in 2023, a vast, anti-governmental demonstration also took place in Warsaw. However, it had nothing to do with supporting Russia and its invasion of Ukraine, as some social media users suggested. 

The main demonstration was led by Donald Tusk, former Polish prime minister and leader of the the Civic Platform (PO) opposition party. Though it took place in Warsaw, protests were also organized in other Polish cities. Many citizens were waving both Polish and European Union (EU) flags to show their patriotism and support for the EU. 

In June 2023, a tweet was shared, commenting on the protest and claiming that "the Polish people side with Russia" and "were praising their friendship with Russia and were disgusted by their government's support for the Ukronazis." The alleged evidence for the pro-Russian character of the gathering was said to be a Russian flag visible in the video from the demonstration.

The video is authentic, but it does not show a Russian flag. As you can see below, it shows two separate flags, one for Poland and the other for the European Union. It is also worth mentioning that the Russian flag is white-blue-red and not white-red-blue. In short, the protest was directed against the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, and no Russian flags were waved. 

The author of the post added a tweet to the thread, admitting that the flag in question wasn't Russian, but had not deleted the original tweet as of this writing.

Our research found that the video attached to the tweet was posted on an Italian Telegram channel that has shared other false claims that supported an anti-Ukrainian narrative. Moreover, the video's overlay suggests that it originally came from @uranews channel, connected to a Russian website, ura.ru, known for spreading false information about the war in Ukraine.

For instance, the main page of this website calls the war in Ukraine a "special operation." It is, therefore, highly probable that the post is yet another attempt at Russian propaganda aimed at portraying Poland as anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian. 

Sources

'Poland Protest: Hundreds of Thousands Demand Change in Warsaw'. BBC News, 4 June 2023. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-65803318.

Walker, Shaun. 'Poland: Hundreds of Thousands March against Rightwing Populist Government'. The Guardian, 4 June 2023. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jun/04/poland-hundreds-of-thousands-march-against-rightwing-populist-government.

'Marsz 4 czerwca. Kilkaset tysięcy ludzi przeszło przez Warszawę. Donald Tusk: Nie zabiliście naszej wiary w zwycięstwo [ZAPIS relacji na żywo]'. warszawa.wyborcza.pl, 4 June 2023, https://warszawa.wyborcza.pl/warszawa/14,54420,29834122.html.

'Marsze 4 czerwca w całej Polsce. Manifestowali przeciwko "obłudzie, kłamstwu, propagandzie"'. TVN24, 4 June 2023, https://tvn24.pl/pomorze/marsze-4-czerwca-w-calej-polsce-manifestowali-przeciwko-obludzie-klamstwu-propagandzie-7159776.

Marsz 4 czerwca. PiS pomógł ożywić mit wolności. I przypomniał, o czym jest 'W samo południe'. https://oko.press/marsz-4-czerwca-pis-pomogl-ozywic-mit-wolnosci. Accessed 6 June 2023.

РИА URA.RU: Главные новости Урала, России и мира сегодня. https://ura.news/. Accessed 6 June 2023.

Fake News: Czy Prezydent Zełenski Uciekł z Kijowa Do Polski?https://fakehunter.pap.pl/raport/e4b2123c-efcb-43da-86dd-0af88043685f. Accessed 6 June 2023.

Aleksandra Wrona is a reporting fellow for Snopes, based in the Warsaw area.

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