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Latvians Aren't Happy The BBC Just Showed Russia Invading Them

A wargame depicting an invasion of the Baltic country isn't going over too well with Latvians.

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The BBC on Wednesday night showed a grim sight: Russian forces invading Latvia, forcing a response from the British government and NATO. The situation quickly escalated until nuclear weapons began flying.

But, of course, none of it was real.

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The program that aired on BBC2, "World War Three: Inside the War Room," was a mix of produced faux-dcoumentary footage and shots of very serious men and women in a room, running what's known as a war game — a scenario designed to game out a country's options when responding to a crisis.

As the Daily Mail describes it, "retired senior military and diplomatic figures convene around a table in a war room, just as a Cabinet Office committee would give their advice to the Prime Minister."

BBC / Richard Kenny

The British government itself had no role in the wargame's development, according to Jessica Culshaw, a publicist with the BBC. "The fictional scenarios in this programme were developed over many months of research and in consultation with a range of experts in diplomacy, security and military strategy from around the world," she wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News.

That's all well and good, but what has Latvians less than thrilled isn't just the target country in the scenario — it's how it all unfolds.

BBC / Gabriel Range

In the war game, the trouble starts with a bunch of pro-Russian rebels wearing uniforms with the flag of Latvia's eastern Latgale region. That region actually does contain a large number of Russian speakers, drawing comparisons to the areas of eastern Ukraine that have been the scene of a Russian-backed civil war for more than a year.

Despite being fictional, the program had already prompted serious discussion in Latvia before it even aired. One general said that the game showed that NATO countries were totally willing to defend the Baltic states against Russia.

Ģenerālis: BBC raidījums parādīs Krievijai, ka tās iebrukuma gadījumā NATO aizsargās Baltijas valstis https://t.co/ssIGsmyxGp

And though the program didn't air outside of the United Kingdom, Latvians still found a way to stream it less than legally online.

Starp city, nebiju domājis, ka pienāks diena, kad puse Latvijas politiskās elites internetā pārkāps BBC instelektuālā īpašuma tiesības

Some wondered why their country was the target at all, like this user who wondered why the scenario's designers didn't have Russia aim bigger, like Sweden or Turkey.

BBC 2 filma par Putina iebrukumu LV ir ļoti mīļi protams. Tikai -kāpēc tik pieticīgi? Kas vainas, teiksim, Zviedrijai? Vai Turcijai?

At least one person got totally freaked out by the whole thing.

Noskatījos BBC filmu par to kā Krievija,iespējams,iekarotu Latviju. Johaidī, vienā brīdī noticēju un baisi palika. Tik beigas palaidu garām.

Translation: "Watched the BBC movie about how Russia, possibly, would wage war in Latvia. For a moment believed it and got scared. Only missed the ending."

And no less a personality than the Latvian Foreign Minister took to Twitter to air his grievances with the show.

Watched BBC2 World War 3: Inside the War Room, while scenario of separatists in Latgale is rubbish, overall many lessons to learn for all

As it turns out, though, nobody is happy with the war game: Russian media feels dismayed at Moscow being cast in the villain's role.

Alexei Nikolsky / AP

Oddly enough, this interview published on Russia Today and this article on state-owned television network Vesti both resentfully refer to the West as seeing Russia as a "bad boy."

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

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