Yet to those who believe that German authorities have lost control over the country, the police statement sounded like a cover-up. The following weekend, Russian speakers held rallies across Germany. In Berlin, 700 protesters, backed by the anti-Islam movement PEGIDA,gathered in front of the Federal Chancery holding smiley-face balloons with their mouths taped over and signs reading “Our children are in danger.”
What should have been a case for family counselors and detectives blew up into a diplomatic scandal. As Lisa holds both German and Russian citizenship, the Kremlin entered the fray. In late January the Russian embassy in Berlin sent an “aggressive” protest note to the German Foreign Office demanding a full investigation, according to Der Spiegel. Then Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brought up “our girl Lisa” in his annual press conference in Moscow. “I really hope that the migration problems won’t lead to an attempt to whitewash reality with political correctness for domestic political reasons,” Lavrov said. “That wouldn’t be right.”
In March 2014, Putin appealed directly to Germans for their support, drawing parallels between the annexation of Crimea and German reunification. Winning over German public opinion became a priority, and the state-owned network RT, formerly known as Russia Today, opened a German channel, RT Deutsch, later that year. The Kremlin was exploiting a growing distrust among Germans toward traditional news outlets, expressed in the far-right PEGIDA protests. A poll conducted in October found that 44 percent of Germans agreed with PEGIDA that mainstream media distorted the news to suit the elites.