Lithuania probes fake German troops rape claim

German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen speaks on the first day of the 53rd Munich Security Conference (MSC) at the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich, southern Germany, on February 17, 2017

Lithuanian prosecutors said Friday they had opened a probe into who was responsible for spreading false allegations of a rape committed by German troops freshly deployed to the Baltic NATO state.

Police have described as fake an email sent this week to the speaker of parliament and national police claiming that German-speaking men in uniforms raped an underage girl near a barracks in central Lithuania.

Several hundred German soldiers arrived this month as part of a multinational NATO battalion in Lithuania, one of four the alliance is providing on a rotational basis to eastern flank members to deter a militarily resurgent Russia.

"An email was sent from a country outside the EU and we are currently working with this information," Darius Valkavicius, chief prosecutor for the central Kaunas region in charge of the probe, told AFP.

"An initial investigation was launched into a report of a crime known to be non?existent. The information was checked and we see today that the crime did not happen."

Without naming the specific incident, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Friday warned about fake news "undermining the credibility of democratic institutions and in particular the accurate coverage by the independent media".

Lithuania's defence ministry said Friday the allegations were completely false.

"It's a provocation against NATO efforts to increase security on its eastern flank," defence ministry spokeswoman Vita Ramanauskaite told AFP.

Lithuanian and German defence ministers discussed the issue during their meeting earlier this week, she added.

NATO and EU countries have recently repeatedly accused Russia of launching disinformation campaigns to influence local politics, a claim strongly rejected by Moscow.

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