On February 27, the Russian Embassy in Egypt called on Egyptians not to believe news coming from Ukrainian media sources about what is happening in Ukraine. The embassy followed that tweet with a string of others justifying Kremlin’s all-out attack on Ukraine.
In a February 28 tweet, the Russian Embassy in Egypt called attention to the 1956 Suez Crisis to legitimize Russia’s push into Ukraine.
Also known as the second Arab-Israeli war, the Suez Crisis began in October 1956, after Israel, Britain and France launched a joint attack to oust then-Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Nasser had nationalized the Suez Canal, the narrow waterway from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through which most of the oil consumed by Europe was shipped. The canal had been run by a joint British-French venture.
The Russian Embassy’s Twitter feed posted pictures from the front pages of Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper in 1956, circling the headlines and articles noting Russia's support for Egypt. Another picture of a front page from Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper during the same period had the banner headline: “England, France Invade Egypt.”
“Some things never change, including Western propaganda," the embassy tweeted. "But history remembers the truth, and the truth is with us.”
Although the tweet didn’t specifically mention Ukraine, the context was clear as Russia defends itself from global condemnation for the invasion that began February 24.
Putting the two events on an equal historical footing is highly misleading.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited vague, misleading and unsupported grievances for his attack on Ukraine, among them his own conviction that Ukraine should never have been independent from Moscow. He falsely and brazenly claimed Ukraine needs to be “de-nazified.”
By comparison, the Suez Crisis began with an actual provocation.
The canal was built by the Universal Company of the Maritime Canal of Suez, jointly owned by France and Egypt, from 1859 to 1869, when it was opened for navigation.
The canal is 120 miles long and provides a short maritime route between Europe and the Indian Ocean. Egypt sold its ownership share of the canal company to Britain in 1875.
By 1956, the United States and Western Europe were locked in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. Nasser had strengthened ties with Moscow, including buying Soviet arms, after which Washington withdrew a promise to fund construction of the Aswan Dam on the Nile River. In response, Nasser nationalized the canal.
In October of 1956, Israeli forces responded by invading the canal zone, defeating Egyptian defenders. France and England later sent occupying troops. The conflict only ended after then-U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower threatened sanctions on the three countries if they didn’t withdraw.
When they completed a pullout the following March, it was heralded as a victory for Nasser and Arab nationalism, according to the historical account in Britannica.com.
In fact, Arab nations are not cheering for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On March 2, 141 countries in the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution calling on Russia to “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”
The Suez Canal tweet is part of a larger Russian disinformation campaign aimed at shaping Arab world opinion about the Ukraine invasion.
Russia’s Embassy in Egypt posted another tweet exploiting a video, widely circulated in the Middle East and North Africa, showing CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata calling Ukraine a “relatively civilized, relatively European” country compared to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The embassy tweeted: “This video clearly shows the West’s values and its double standards policy, and there’s no need for further comment.”
D’Agata apologized on air the following day.
“I spoke in a way that I regret, and for that I’m sorry. What I hoped to convey is what’s unique about the fighting that is underway here is that this country has not really seen this scale of war in recent years, unlike some conflicts in countries I’ve covered that tragically suffered though many years of fighting,” D’Agata said.
Separately, a pair of Russian Foreign Ministry Arab-language tweets shared infographics, recycled from the Chinese Embassy in Moscow, falsely claiming most of the world’s wars and airstrikes were launched by the United States.
One of the tweets read: “Don’t forget who is the real threat in the world.”
The Russian ambassador to Egypt, Georgy Borisenko, gave several interviews and statements to local and pan-Arab media. In an interview with Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned international Arabic news service, Borisenko defended Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine and attacked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
On March 1, Russia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Rudakov told al-Mayadeen, a pro-Hezbollah pan-Arab channel: “This is a war against the Nazi battalions and armed forces that fought for eight years in east Ukraine. This is not an aggression; this is to defend justice the rights of the Russian Federation.”
There is no evidence to back up the claim about Nazi battalions.
Lebanon is one of the countries that voted in favor of the U.N.’s resolution calling on Russia to immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine.
The Russian Embassy in Iraq tweeted a photo of a billboard put up by “Putin’s allies” in the el-Jadria area of Baghdad. The billboard consisted of a large picture of Putin with “We support Russia” written on it in English.
However, a group of young men tore down the billboard shortly after it was put up.