German soldiers have become the targets of a ‘fake news campaign' involving rape allegations, the Defence Ministry confirmed on Thursday.
The fake news reports, according to Spiegel, came from unknown persons who were sending politicians and media unverified stories of German soldiers raping an underage girl in the city of Jonava.
The Lithuanian government has clearly stated that such a crime did not occur.
Bundeswehr soldiers were deployed to Lithuania recently to lead a NATO operation to reinforce its eastern flank in a bid to deter a militarily resurgent Russia. German officers are set to lead that 1,200-strong battalion that will include forces from other NATO members.
Lithuania and other eastern NATO members have voiced concerned about their safety with Russia since its involvement in the Ukraine crisis and the annexation of Crimea.
A NATO diplomat told Spiegel that the new rape reports could be an effort by Russia to provoke the troops, who Moscow does not want there in the first place.
Lithuanian police are now investigating the reports as a case of someone knowingly spreading false information.
Germany accused Russia of exploiting what turned out to be fake rape reports last year in Berlin, which alleged that a teen Russian-German girl had been abducted and raped by immigrants. The reports prompted large demonstrations by Russian-Germans in the country. Upon further investigation, however, police revealed that the girl had in fact been staying with a friend the night she was supposedly kidnapped.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in regards to the case in Lithuania that now it is very important to check facts.
“What NATO can do is always be vigilant,” Stoltenberg added.
“We will never answer propaganda with propaganda. We will answer propaganda with facts, because we have the strong conviction that truth will triumph over propaganda in the long-run.”