On April 18, RIA Novosti, Argumenty i Fakty, PolitNavigator, Moskovsky Komsomolets and other media span a story claiming that Ukrainian navy servicemen who left Crimea after it was annexed by Russia in 2014 threatened Ukrainian officials that they would return to the occupied peninsula and take Russian citizenship.

The source for this distorted claim was an open letter that a group of sailors wrote to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, calling on him to resolve housing issues that Ukraine’s naval personnel resettled from Crimea had been facing, according to Stop Fake, Ukraine's non-profit disinformation watchdog.

The open letter addresses housing concerns that naval personnel are confronted with on the mainland. Forced to leave their homes because of the annexation without any compensation, many of these naval personnel have struggled to find housing. They point out in the letter that they chose to remain faithful to their oath to serve their country, and because of that they and their families are facing social and housing difficulties. Previous appeals have fallen on deaf ears, they point out and in the four years since they were forced to leave their homes, these issues have not been resolved.

Read alsoRussia boosts navy presence in Azov Sea, provocations possible – Ukraine militaryAt the end of the letter, these naval personnel appeal to President Poroshenko to use his powers to resolve their housing issues, and express hope that Ukraine’s leadership will not remain indifferent to their plight.

“We hope Ukraine’s leadership won’t be indifferent in resolving this matter and won’t induce naval personnel who finish their tour of duty to return to Crimea and take up Russian citizenship just to resolve the housing issue, thereby putting our lives and the lives of our families in danger,” the servicemen conclude.

Russian media focused on this one and only sentence while completely ignoring an entire page of text that preceded the message, where the naval personnel point out that they have always been patriots of their country, followed orders, while many of them have been on combat missions in eastern Ukraine, and awarded for their service.

Read alsoFirst Deputy Chief of Ukrainian Navy Hladkiy dismissedAccording to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry after Russia annexed Crimea 3,991 military personnel, including 1,649 officers left the peninsula for mainland Ukraine.