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Fake news of the week: Annalena Baerbock’s secret weapon

What was Putin really laughing about?

Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov share a laugh. Photo: IMAGO / ITAR-TASS

Each week, in a partnership with Correctiv, Exberliner will bring you a piece of misinformation that has been circulating online – and the corresponding fact check

For the second instalment, we examine a video which was shared by the twitter account Green Watch, which purports to deliver its 23,000 followers regular updates about ‘the Greens and their scandals’.

In the video, an old viral clip of Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Russia has had its subtitles altered to make it appear as though the Russian president is talking with his Defence Minister Sergei Schoigu about the recent visit to Ukraine by Green leader and Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock. 

Here are the subtitles as they appear in the video:

Sergei Schoigu: Baerbock was militant in Kiev! She made one promise to the Ukrainians after another. Common values, willingness to dialogue, solidarity and so on. All that is totally unimportant of course. The thing which worried me was this. She wants to deliver hydrogen infantry! This new weapon could…

Putin: Hydrogen diplomacy, Sergei. Not infantry.

Schiogu: I see. Well then, I overestimated her. Still, we should be careful… Stop laughing, Vladimir!

Putin: Guys, it’s just Baerbock.

In reality, the men are discussing nothing to do with Baerbock or Germany. The man talking to Putin is not even Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Schoigu, but Alexander Nikolayevich Tkachev who served as Minister of Agriculture from 2015 to 2018. Their conversation is about pork exports and the reason Putin laughs is likely because Tkachev misspoke and mentioned Indonesia (a Muslim country) when discussing pork exports to the East. 

The reference to “hydrogen diplomacy” in the faked subtitles relates to something Annalena Baerbock said on her trip to Ukraine. Encouraged to take a stance against Russia, she instead spoke of opening an office for “hydrogen diplomacy” in Kiev, referring to the need to import hydrogen to further Germany’s transition to green energy.

A few hours after they posted the video in its false context, Green Watch announced that they hadn’t meant to mislead anyone and the post was in fact intended as “satire”.