Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Shutterstock/PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek

Debunked: Fake government letter used to spread rumour of Ukrainians being extradited to fight

Other forgeries pushing the same narrative have been spread by eastern European pro-Kremlin groups.

RUMOURS THAT UKRAINIAN citizens will be extradited to fight in the army, a narrative pushed by pro-Kremlin media, have been boosted online by images of a fake letter purporting to be from the Irish Department of Justice.

“We are writing to inform you that the Department of Justice has received a request from the Government of Ukraine for your extradition,” the hoax letter, addressed to a Ukrainian name at a Limerick address, says.

“The request is based on the allegation that you are eligible for military conscription in Ukraine and have failed to comply with your legal obligation to serve in the armed forces.”

However, the letter is fake and Ireland does not extradite people for military service.

“The Department can confirm that the letter in question was not sent by the Department of Justice,” staff at the Department of Justice told The Journal FactCheck by email.

“If anyone is unsure of the authenticity of any correspondence they receive purporting to be from the Department of Justice, they can contact the Department on 1800 221 227.

“Scams are common. They can happen at any time. Some of the most common types of scams involve the use of fake emails, calls or texts pretending to be from real companies and organisations.”

There are multiple signs that indicate that the letter is not genuine, including it being signed off from the Department of Justice in “The Republic of Ireland”. This is not how the State refers to the name of this country.

“Never use ‘Republic of Ireland’,” a style guide on confirms. “Only use ‘Ireland’”.

The letter also references the Extradition Act of 1965; however, that act explicitly states that there are exceptions to extradition, including military offences (Part 2, article 12) and that the offense must also be illegal and punishable by at least a year’s imprisonment in Ireland (Part 2, article 10). 

There has never been conscription in the history of the Irish state. 

“Whether it is the EAW [European arrest warrant] Scheme (which Ukraine cannot avail of) or the 1965 Act, neither statutory provision provides for being extradited for ‘military matters’,” Ciaran Mulholland, the Principal Solicitor with Mulholland Law, which focuses on extradition cases, told The Journal. 

“In all my years practicing in the UK and Ireland I have never came across a case whereby a State has actively sought extraditions for citizens who avoided conscription during war nor where Ireland has participated in an extradition request,” Mulholland said.

However, in spite of not being real, images of the letter spread rapidly, often in groups that regularly post pro-Kremlin propaganda, and appeared to echo a narrative that is being pushed by Russian media.

“EU members may soon be ‘flooded’ with requests from Ukraine to extradite its military service-aged male citizens,” a September 4 article on RT (formerly Russia Today) begins.

Later that same week, the fake letter was spread widely online, including one post on the social media site formerly known as Twitter that was viewed more than 298,400 times.

The claim also spread on other social networks, such as Facebook. “You might say it’s fake, but it’s not,” a description under an image of the letter reads. “The safest place for Ukrainians, as it turns out, is Russia.”

Another post featuring the letter, in an Irish fringe group, mentioned an earlier iteration of the same claim: “Some weeks back there was an allegation that Ukrainian men were spotted being put onto a bus in Ireland for extradition, but the promised footage never materialised.”

Images of the letter were also spread on Telegram where they were viewed tens of thousands times, sometimes associated with even more extreme narratives.

“Soon this will apply to Ukrainian Single women too according to sources in the Department of Justice,” one user said, entirely without evidence. 

“More Judges are being allocated extradition hearings to speed up the need for Ukrainians to fulfil their military service.”

Other forged letters asking that Ukrainians be deported to serve in the military, were also spread in Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, the Atlantic Council, an American think tank that is banned in Russia, reported

Some of these faked letters were shown on state television in Belarus, a Kremlin ally that has allowed Russian forces to attack Ukraine from Belarussian territory.

Other faked letters, supposedly by Michael Gove, were sent in the United Kingdom earlier this year, asking for details of Ukrainian adult men living with sponsor families. 

“We’ve seen previous attempts at creating and posting fake letters from European governments pushing similar anti-Ukrainian narratives during this war,” Shayan Sardarizadeh, a BBC journalist specialising in online disinformation told The Journal.

Sardarizadeh pointed to examples of other faked letters, such as one supposedly from the UK Ministry of Defence that lamented that Ukrainian soldiers they had helped to train were lacking basic military skills.

The Journal’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.