Fabricated quote about defeating Russia to 'avenge Napoleon, Hitler' attributed to EU diplomat

As Western countries pledged to step up deliveries of weapons to Ukraine, social media users in Thailand shared a fabricated quote that the European Union's most senior diplomat Josep Borrell called to "keep using Ukrainians as our bait" in order to defeat Russia and "avenge Napoleon and Hitler". While Borrell mentioned Napoleon and Hitler in a speech about the war in Ukraine, he was speaking in the context of Russia's past military victories and did not say they should be "avenged".

"Europe declares Russia must be defeated to wash away the shame of Napoleon and Hitler," reads a Thai-language Facebook post shared on January 21 on a page with more than 54,000 followers.

It says the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell gave a speech to "cheer up" EU members, in which he said: "We used to fight to the end. Russia was almost defeated in the past but then it rebuilt everything. Russia did that to European leaders Napoleon and Hitler, who were painfully defeated.

"For this new war, we have to keep using Ukrainians as our bait. The Europeans, on behalf of NATO, have to do everything to not lose to Russia, otherwise our predecessors Napoleon and Hitler will be ashamed of us."

Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 but suffered a catastrophic retreat from Moscow that proved a huge blow to his plans to dominate Europe. During World War II, Hitler's forces occupied vast swathes of Soviet territory before Germany's crushing defeat in 1945.

Text superimposed on a photo of Hitler says in Thai: "EU proclamation! Russia must be defeated to avenge Napoleon and Hitler", while the post links to a blog post that repeats the false claim.

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, captured on February 2, 2023

Similar Facebook posts shared the fabricated quote, including here, here and here, as Western countries stepped up their weapons deliveries to Ukraine, nearly a year after Russia's full-scale invasion.

Moscow has drawn parallels between World War II and the Ukraine conflict and referred to the invasion as a "special military operation" to "de-Nazify" its neighbour.


The European Commission's lead spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy, Peter Stano said the claim was "manipulation and disinformation".

Borrell had "absolutely not" spoken of avenging Napoleon or Hitler, he told AFP on January 26.

Stano pointed AFP to a Spanish-language speech that Borrell gave at a New Economic Forum event in Madrid on January 20, in which he mentioned Napoleon and Hitler.

But he had spoken about Russia's "performance in the war against the armies led by them".

In the speech, Borrell says in Spanish: "Ukrainians are still defending their country. There is no wave of Ukrainians fleeing, which is what Putin wanted to provoke.

"But let's keep in mind that Russia is a great country, it's a great nation that is used to fighting to the end. And it is used to almost losing and then recovering. It did that with Napoleon and it did that with Hitler. It would be absurd to think that Russia has lost the war or that its military is incompetent. So far it has been losing the war but it still has enormous strength and capacity to continue it.

"That is why it is now when it is necessary to continue arming Ukraine, with the material and military means necessary to wage the kind of war it has to wage, not only a defensive war, but a war that allows it to take the initiative, to break fronts and to prevent Russia from launching a new very powerful and bloody offensive in a few months' time."

Various news outlets reported on Borrell's comments, including Russian state broadcaster RT and Spain-based publications Notimerica and ElNacional.cat.

AFP has debunked a wave of misinformation on the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

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