German soldiers forward deployed to Lithuania have become the targets of a hostile Russian information operations campaign, according to NATO officials.

On Thursday, it was reported that rape allegations made against German soldiers via email made it all the way to the president of the Lithuanian parliament and to various news agencies in the country.

After an initial investigation was conducted by local police, it was concluded that the charges that German soldiers had raped an underage Lithuanian girl were unfounded, as no evidence of such an event could be found.

Both German and Lithuanian government officials have released statements discrediting the event, saying there is no victim, witnesses, or perpetrators for this crime.

The allegations come as NATO soldiers from multiple allied countries are arriving throughout the Baltic states as part of a military campaign to shift forces towards the Russian border. Germany is leading the NATO presence in Lithuania.

Security concerns raised by the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, and its continued support of separatist operations in eastern Ukraine, have led to bolstered NATO support throughout eastern Europe. Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia all are hosting NATO troops as a direct response to recent Russian actions.

Russia has predictably criticized the move, saying they represent an unnecessary provocation. NATO has said moving around 4,000 multinational troops to the region is a purely defensive precaution, citing their belief that Russia has stationed 330,000 troops on their western border.

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No trace could be found on the emails containing the rape allegations against the Germans. This has led NATO officials to believe they are part of a continuing Russian disinformation campaign designed to discredit the foreign troops being stationed in Lithuania.

In this instance, historical context can lend some perspective on the significance of rape allegations. The supposed perpetrators: a gang of German soldiers. The victim: an underage Lithuanian girl. There are subtle echoes of World War Two when these details are considered. Nazi Germany occupied Lithuania from 1941 to 1945.

Of the many horrors of that war, sexual violence against women was particularly widespread. The image of the Soviet hordes advancing west towards Berlin, looting and sexually assaulting women along the way, was a common theme characterizing the nature of the Soviet Army, and became a prominent fixture in dehumanizing the Russians during the Cold War.

However, as some have alleged, rape and other crimes against occupied people was widespread among the western armies as well.

Image courtesy of DW