Disinfo: EU is not publishing the coronavirus disinformation cases it accuses Russia of spreading

Summary

The European report points to a record “80 cases of Russian disinformation” that attacked the performance of national systems for monitoring and eliminating epidemics in Europe, according to the Financial Times. Likewise, the suspicions “published by Russia” about America’s role in the Corona issue can only be considered a campaign of misleading public opinion, as is understood from the report. However, a question arises here: Why have not all the 80 such cases been widely published, especially as Russia is “trying to spread the atmosphere of terror among European societies” and “spreading division” as the European Union claims? Do not such matters affect European national security in the eyes of Europeans?

It is always possible to invent anything when facts are not available. In this case the evidence is not necessary, but it is sufficient to put a “highly confidential” stamp and refer to high-level sources. Those who practice this will keep it a secret if they have nothing to offer. The reason is the absence of evidence and facts, that is, they have nothing to say … so simply.

Disproof

This is a recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative denying that Russian media had been involved in spreading disinformation about the coronavirus.

It is simply not true that the EU has not published the Russian media cases of disinformation. As of 19 March, our database has collected and published over 110 corona-related disinformation cases in the public EUvsDisinfo database since 22 January 2020. These messages are characteristic of the Kremlin’s well-established strategy of using disinformation to amplify divisions, sow distrust and chaos, and exacerbate crisis situations and issues of public concern.

Here is a summary of the main disinformation messages Russian media (including official media) has been spreading about the coronavirus:

• Messages targeting domestic Russian audiences describe the virus as a form of foreign aggression, for instance claiming that the coronavirus originates in secret US or Western laboratories and emphasising that challenges coping with the virus mainly affect foreign and democratic countries, while Russia is fighting the outbreak. • Messages targeting international audiences (in English, Italian, Spanish and Arabic, among other languages) follow a different approach: they focus primarily on conspiracy theories about “global elites” deliberately weaponising or exploiting the virus for their own ends. Here the aim is to induce distrust in national and European authorities and healthcare systems, international institutions, and scientific experts, among others. • Narratives describing the virus as man-made is present in disinformation targeting all audiences.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 189
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 22/03/2020
  • Outlet language(s) Arabic
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: US, Russia
  • Keywords: coronavirus, Biological weapons, European Union, Conspiracy theory
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There is not a single example of disinformation coming from Russian media

On March 16th 2020, the European External Action Service published a report namely accusing Russia of spreading disinformation, to lower the confidence of Western citizens in their state and public health system. The report did not include a single example of disinformation and was published for internal political goals. Since the EU and national state failed to address the health crisis caused by the coronavirus, Russia was used as a scapegoat to distract the attention of Europeans. Russia is used as a scapegoat in the West for many issues such as elections, climate change, coronavirus….

Disproof

Recurring narrative from the Kremlin and editors of Russian state media claiming that the EEAS did not give any examples of disinformation. The cases the report referred to are listed in this very database, documenting the most common disinformation narratives and examples in many different languages by pro-Kremlin media: more than two hundred are on the coronavirus. The EEAS did not publish a report accusing Russia of spreading disinformation on March 16th. However, some parts of an internal report were leaked to news agencies and were subsequently commented on by the Kremlin. The report itself included several examples of disinformation. A shorter version of the original report was published on March 19th on the EUvsDisinfo website. It summarises the trends of disinformation narratives about COVID-19 for different audiences. An update was published on April 1st.

COVID-19 is a fake, it's a political move to install hegemony

COVID-19 is a fake, it’s a common and not deadly virus. All those deaths in Italy cannot be because of the coronavirus. It’s a political move to destroy small businesses and install deep state hegemony. US is adopting fascist measures to limit people’s freedom.

Disproof

An unfounded conspiracy theory, sharing a recurrent pro-Kremlin narrative about "secret elites" controlling world leaders. COVID-19 comes from a family of viruses originating in animals that include other viruses such as SARS and MERS. It was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in central China and has been rapidly spreading across the world, with cases being reported in 190 countries, territories and areas. The number of COVID-19 cases surpassed 300,000 globally with over 14,000 deaths (with 5,476 only in Italy) by 23 March 2020. Many other claims have been pushed by pro-Kremlin media since the outbreak started in January, for example, that governments overestimate the threat, that it was born in a laboratory to infect Chinese, that it is an element of hybrid warfare and that the remedy has been developed in Ukraine.

Latvia protects Nazi criminals

Due to coronavirus the march of Latvian SS legionnaires was cancelled. At the same time, Russia has announced the names of 96 Nazis criminals from Latvia who are alive and respected in Latvia. They managed to avoid responsibility by hiding in Nazi-loyal states.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about Nazi/Fascist Baltic states, consistent with broader efforts of historical revisionism, to whitewash the role of the Soviet Union in the WW2. For more information about the March 16 events in Latvia read here. See related disinformation cases alleging that the Baltic States laugh at the memory of those who perished in Holocaust; that Nazis are in power in Latvia; that the Baltic authorities associate themselves with Hitler.