Lisa was a Russian-born teenager living in Berlin who last January said she had been abducted and raped by three men she alleged were immigrants, noting they were “southerners” who spoke poor German. As the story spread on social media, Russian media outlets pounced on it, widely reporting the 13-year-old girl had been held as “a sex slave”. Before the police could complete their investigation, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, accused the German authorities of “sweeping problems under the rug”. Berlin responded by warning Moscow not to exploit the case “for political propaganda”. A few days later, prosecutors concluded the girl had not been abducted or raped, but had gone to a friend’s home to hide from her parents after getting into trouble at school. Despite the prosecutors’ findings, Russian media issued dire warnings about sex crimes committed by immigrants, prompting an outcry in Germany’s ethnic Russian community. Protests were staged across the country, including a demonstration by 700 people outside Angela Merkel’s chancellery.
For Germans braced for Russian interference in this year’s federal election, the “Lisa case” offers a precedent for how it might unfold. The case erupted during election campaigns in three regions, when emotions were running high about the flow of 1m refugees into Germany and support was surging for the hard right Alternative for Germany party.
Now Berlin fears that Moscow could be planning another intervention ahead of September’s Bundestag poll with the aim of undermining Ms Merkel. The chancellor herself has warned that Russian internet-based misinformation could “play a role in the campaign”.
Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the domestic BfV intelligence agency, has put it more bluntly. The Kremlin, he says, is seeking “to influence public opinion and decision-making processes” because “we have a parliamentary election this year”.
Full Article: German politics: Russia’s next target?.