Russian propaganda claims Switzerland is headed for famine this winter
A Russian journalist living in Lausanne has claimed that Switzerland faces a “horror winter” of water, energy and even food shortages. The woman used official but misleading documents by the Swiss government to make her case, but claims she was taken out of context.
Switzerland threatened by winter of hunger according to Russian media
According to the Tages-Anzeiger, Russian journalist Viktoria Petrova claimed that the country is threatened by a “winter of hunger.” In a short video published on the online news website Life.ru, she described a scenario where electricity shortages are common every day, running water is scarce, Swiss public transport is at a standstill and food shortages are commonplace.
She continued by saying that the government had demanded people reduce the heating in their houses to 19 degrees Celsius, which according to the Tages-Anzeiger is considered bitterly cold for houses in Russia. The paper explained that this claim is likely alluding to the voluntary measures announced by the government in late August.
Official Swiss government guide used in misleading video
As proof of the dire situation, Petrova presented an official brochure called “Kluger Rat – Notvorrat” from the Federal Office for Economic Supply (BWL) - the branch of the government which handles Switzerland’s emergency stockpiles. "The Swiss government sends us such brochures," Petrova claimed, explaining that it details what products and essential supplies have to be bought to prepare for the alpine nation's winter of discontent.
The video has quickly been labelled as misleading and propaganda by the Swiss media, as while Switzerland is taking steps to reduce energy consumption, shortages of the kind claimed in the video are highly unlikely. The government also said recently that this winter, energy shortages will not be a problem in Switzerland in most scenarios.
People in Switzerland wanting to stockpile for the worst can find the guide online
As for the proof, a spokesperson from the BWL said that while the document is real, it is several years old and has never been distributed to the public. Thomas Grünwald told the Tages-Anzeiger that anyone in Switzerland who wants to prepare a stockpile for a crisis is free to download the guide online. He also announced that the office is debating whether to stop publishing such documents, as they do not want to stoke fear and misinformation among the public.
The video joins a long line of propaganda efforts used by Russia to stoke misinformation in Europe and abroad. Most recently, for example, the Russian state news agency reported in October that the Tiergarten in Berlin was being cut down because the residents of the German capital needed firewood.
Russian journalist says her comments were taken out of context
Speaking to Blick, Petrova denied spreading misinformation or Russian propaganda. She explained that a colleague in Russia had heard of the pamphlet and told her that she “should explain what it says, and that’s exactly what I did.” She argued that her thoughts were taken out of context by the Russian media and that Switzerland was not facing a harsh winter.
Petrova told the newspaper that she is half-Ukrainian and typically reports on cultural stories, not politics. She said that while she is careful with criticising the Russian regime - as her family still lives in Moscow - she said the accusation of spreading Russian propaganda makes her sad. She concluded that she hopes the war in Ukraine will end soon and that she enjoys living in Switzerland.