The 1.3 million readers of the Telegram channel of Vladimir Solovyov, Putin's most vocal propagandist, may have been happy on Saturday morning: "Budanov in a coma – according to the German magazine Stern" was there, above a picture of Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the Ukrainian Military Intelligence HUR.
As Stern reports, his journalists spoke anonymously to doctors at the hospital where Budanov was admitted. According to her, the head of the Ukrainian secret service suffered brain damage from a head injury. The forecasts: worrying.
The message with reference to the star can also be found on Saturday in other widely read Russian Telegram channels. In the case of Solovyov's channel, the message was relayed by a Belarusian Telegram channel called "Novosti Grodno". The only problem: The star has not published such a message.
The last article on intelligence chief Budanov dates from February 28 this year and reports on his assessment of whether or not China will supply weapons to Moscow.
So the story is nothing more than a blatant fake, another hoax spread by Russian propagandists. The idea behind it: Hardly any reader will bother to check whether such a report can actually be found on the Stern website - quite apart from the fact that most Russians face a language barrier.
The report is now even available in German - published by an Italian fake news agency called "Nova News", which is apparently being used by Russia to spread its own propaganda. Conveniently, the message can be found there in several languages.
Apparently, the fake news is part of a larger Russian disinformation campaign specifically targeting Budanov: the state news agency RIA Novosti reported that Budanov was seriously injured in a Russian rocket attack on Kiev on May 29 and taken to Berlin.
RIA Novosti also reported on an alleged serious injury to the Ukrainian supreme commander, Valeriy Zalushnyi.
The Ukrainian side denies the reports. President Volodymyr Zelenskyj said in his speech on Friday that both Zalushnyj and Budanov were present at a meeting of the military leadership that day.
What remains? This is further evidence of the primitive methods with which Russia, in conjunction with news agencies, powerful propagandists on the social network Telegram and made-up "Western media reports", are circulating false reports. The scheme has been practiced and has been repeated day after day since the beginning of the war, documented on the fact-checking platform "Correctiv".
And what helps against such disinformation? Information. However, this correction will never reach most Russian readers of the relevant Telegram channels.