The Kremlin claims the Estonian purchase of protective gear was Russian humanitarian aid

The Kremlin has claimed that the Estonian and Latvian joint purchase of protective gear from China was, instead, Russian humanitarian aid.

Last week, good news spread in Estonia during the coronavirus emergency crisis. On Thursday, 2 April, a plane with millions of protective masks and other protective equipment landed in Tallinn. The equipment procured from China within the framework of a joint order between Estonia and Latvia and with the help of the Estonian online store, Hansapost, was to alleviate the shortage of protection against the coronavirus.

However, the Kremlin’s propaganda media showed the event as Russia’s aid to Estonia, writes Propastop, an Estonian blog aimed at filtering out fake news.

“A Russian plane brought masks, protective suits and gloves from China to Estonia,” was the news headlined by eadaily.com. “Russian pilots helped the Baltics fight the coronavirus,” stated the Rossiiskaja Gazeta. “A Russian plane brings humanitarian aid from China to Estonia,” writes antimaidan.com. “Russia brings masks and gloves to Estonia while the USA sends Javelin missiles,” explained vpk-news.ru. The news appeared in the same tone in several portals and some accounts, illustrated with pictures of a transport plane with a Russian flag.

The masks are not Russian aid

Indeed, a Russian transport company, Volga-Dnepr Airlines’, II-76 aircraft brought the masks, but this is in no way humanitarian aid from Estonia’s eastern neighbour. The masks were purchased with Estonian government funds. This airline is Hansapost’s long-term logistics partner, which was hired to deliver the shipment due to a favourable price.

The protective gear arriving from China at Tallinn Airport. Photo by Gerttu Blank, the finance ministry.

The propaganda message, “Russia’s humanitarian aid to Estonia”, is not very widespread today, but could become widespread at any moment. The incident is in line with the Kremlin’s propaganda aid to Italy, the United States, Iran and other countries. The fact that “charity” is, in fact, a propaganda message of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s regime to break out of international isolation has been pointed out by several Western publications, such as the BBC, Coda and Foreign Policy.

Could the incident have been prevented? Of course, Hansapost or the Estonian government should have been aware of the possible threat of propaganda. The warning signs were in the air. There has been a lot of talk in the Estonian media about the Kremlin’s “aid” to Italy.

In the future, it is worth bearing in mind that any cooperation with Russia, including ordinary business, can at any time become a tool of Kremlin propaganda and PR actions.

A shipment, which arrived on 5 April, was also delivered by a Russian airline, Pegas Fly. It is not yet clear whether that delivery will give rise to another wave of propaganda news glorifying Russia’s willingness to help.

As additional mask shipments are coming in, it would be worthwhile choosing a company from another country to fly them here just in case.

This information was first published in Propastop site, republished by kind permission. Propastop blog, run by volunteers, is aimed at contributing to Estonia’s information space security.

Cover: A Volga-Dnepr Airlines’ II-76 aircraft landing at the Tallinn Airport on 2 April 2020.

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