Russia’s Embassy in Washington has been accused of taking over "an entire block" in a suspected “parking fraud” by a Twitter user. The unfounded allegations promptly became a “fact” when media outlets picked up the story.
The controversy surrounding the parking spaces erupted earlier this week when a vigilant Twitter user notified Washington’s District Department of Transportation (DDOT DC), posting pictures of reserved parking spaces near Russia’s embassy.
While the permits did not mention the embassy but only a parking company, the user jumped to conclusions that the Russians reserved only four spaces and then simply photocopied the placard to “take over an entire block.”
The DDOT stated that the permits had been placed “illegally” and took them down. The watchdog did not elaborate whether the permits were “photocopied” or had any other flaws. The user thanked the watchdog asking it to not “tell Vlad that I was the whistleblower.” It remained unclear whether he implied that the DDOT itself was in touch with the Russian president.
The permits reemerged later, however, but the same user notified the DDOT again and they were “revoked for noncompliance” by the watchdog.
Update: the signs are back. It looks like they applied for a second permit and hung more signs this morning. Don't they need to be up 3 days in advance? Also, the date says printed 2/22, but they definitely weren't there until today. Still taking up as much space as before. pic.twitter.com/wBd3JWxzTr
— Ted Northrop (@tednorthrop) 28 февраля 2018 г.
The parking company eventually reached the vigilante Twitter user, who provided proof that the permits were legit but were placed incorrectly by a 21-year-old employee of the company.
@tednorthrop 2 permits were for 4 spaces, 8 signs. The 3rd permit was for the entire block….21 y/o employee made honest mistake when posting on Sunday. He fixed it.But signs keep getting vandalized & torn down. Signs printed on 2/22 is actually issued date.We don't control. pic.twitter.com/lSMf0yIAdM
— Atlantic Parking (@ASGParkDC) 28 февраля 2018 г.
The story was picked by some media outlets, including the Ukrainian branch of Voice of America (VoA), which repeated the Twitter user’s allegations of the embassy’s involvement.
Some media outlets, namely SlavicSac.com and Forum Daily websites, went even further, turning the allegations into a bold statement that the Russian embassy “was caught for a parking fraud.” The Forum Daily later amended their story, retracting the headline that accused the Russian mission of “fraud” and softening the overall tone of the article. They also provided statements from the parking company and the embassy’s spokesman.
A spokesman for the embassy, Nikolay Lakhonin, then shed light on the parking spaces controversy, accusing media outlets of producing fake news and bringing the anti-Russian hysteria to a new low. The parking spaces had been booked by the Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History for an event held in embassy’s film club, according to Lakhonin.
“For the convenience of students, show organizer has booked several spaces through the parking company for those students who would come by car to watch the film,” Lakhonin wrote on his Facebook page. While the embassy advised the VoA to reach out to the parking company for comments, the outlet ignored Russian officials and reiterated the allegations, while others turned them into a “fact,” he added.
The spokesman also mocked the “experts” who flocked to share their “deep knowledge on the matter” about the alleged Russian pesky activities. An “expert” from the controversial Bellincat investigative website, for example, claimed that the copiers, allegedly involved in multiplying the permits, were yet another new Russian “weapon.”
“The US budget-funded VoA and Radio Svoboda have spun the story of a Washington resident, who allegedly caught the Russian Embassy ‘capturing the parking lot.’ The fake was eagerly carried on by the USA ONE and Forum Daily. A ‘retraction’ was not published by everyone. Such are the media…” the embassy said on its Russian-language Twitter account.
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