Disinfo: There is no Russian disinformation campaign on coronavirus, despite EU claims

Summary

The job of EU’s European Sratcom Task Force is to dig on the internet to find something, no matter how small and insignificant, that can be presented as an example of the Russian disinformation through which Russia allegedly intends to destroy Europe. After analysing their report on an alleged Russian disinformation campaign on coronavirus, it’s clear that they had to resort to sites as “relevant” as izborsk.md, rubaltic.ru or tsargrad.tv. If we check those sites on SimilarWeb, we see that they reach positions as “influential” as 274,238 for New Eastern Outlook, 179,731 for Geopolitica.ru or 31,524 for Southfront.org. They only could find barely known sites written in languages as extended in the EU as Armenian, Belarusian or Latvian. And while they admit that there are conspiracy theories and colourful opinions in many countries and on a site hosted in Canada about say aliens pulling the strings at the UN – a project of a hermit with an internet connection – a similar site hosted in Russia is part of a massive governmental disinformation campaign. ESTF proved once again that their goal is not to clean the information space from fake news, but of news coming from Russia.

Disproof

The YouTube clip deliberately distorts the content of the ESTF report on a Kremlin-led disinformation campaign on coronavirus to portray it as biased and irrelevant. The presenter opts to ignore that many of the articles described in the report and hosted on the EUvsDisinfo database appeared in highly influential outlets like RT English (ranked in position 311 in SimilarWeb) or the different versions of Sputnik. Contrary to the claim, the database also features dozens of disinformation articles in widely spoken languages in the EU like English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Czech, Bulgarian or Arabic. All the disinformation cases exposed in both the ESTF report and database were published or broadcasted in outlets linked directly or indirectly to the Russian state.

The Kremlin's ongoing disinformation campaign around the coronavirus has been well documented by both media and governments, and some of its elements were widely reported by Russian and international publications and by the European External Action Service.

The EUvsDisinfo database has a long set of Kremlin-linked disinformation cases on this subject, such as claims that Bill Gates and George Soros are sponsoring the Wuhan coronavirus, that it is a UKUS or NATO creation and Americans have its cure, that it is an artificial disease which specifically targets Chinese DNA, that it is a pretext to gain control of the world’s population, that it was created with economic goals while big pharma companies are spreading panic for their own profits, that it is a biological weapon against Russia and China, that it will wipe out Ukraine’s population in a few days or that it was predicted by Nostradamus and others.

This disinformation message appeared in the same TV broadcast as the claim that “EU experts make false claims about non-existent Russian disinformation to justify their job”.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue194
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 27/03/2020
  • Language/target audience: Spanish, Castilian
  • Country: EU, Russia
  • Keywords: coronavirus, EU, Anti-Russian

Disclaimer

Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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There was a coup d’état in Ukraine in early 2014

Relations between Russia and the European Union had deteriorated because of the situation in Ukraine, where a coup d’état took place in early 2014. In the same year, a referendum was held on the accession of the Crimean peninsula to Russia. The peninsula had until then belonged to Ukraine. The West accused Russia of interference and imposed sanctions as a result.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative painting the 2013-14 Ukrainian revolution as a coup d'etat and claiming that Crimean citizens chose to rejoin Russia through a legal referendum.

There was no coup d'état in Ukraine. The spontaneous onset of the Euromaidan protests was an organic reaction by numerous parts of the Ukrainian population to former President Yanukovych’s sudden departure from the promised Association Agreement with the European Union in November 2013.

European countries did not respond to the problems in Italy

The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be an insurmountable test for the EU on the strength of political and economic unity. This is already obvious. And the point here is not only how the community of European countries reacted to the problems in Italy. Rather, the EU did NOT respond, preferring to simply close the internal borders and even take medicine and medical equipment that could save thousands of human lives in Milan or Bergamo.

Disproof

This claim exploits the coronavirus pandemic to push a recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the EU's alleged imminent collapse and a speculative claim about "abandoned Italy" claiming that the EU left Italy alone to fight coronavirus.

One of the main pro-Kremlin narratives relating to the pandemic is that the EU is failing to cope with the COVID-19 crisis and, as a result, is disintegrating, together with the border-free Schengen area. In particular, this narrative of failure and lack of EU solidarity is trending after the delivery of Russian aid to Italy.

WHO may be involved in a plot to reduce global population

Within the framework of “Operation COVID-19”, WHO is involved with vaccines (or rather, chemical weapons), which should reduce the population. […] The Republic of Armenia is not a country where the population can be reduced. Armenia should immediately suspend its WHO membership and abandon any “WHO-Bill Gates” programmes. Armenia must reject any vaccination programmes against COVID-19.

Disproof

An unfounded conspiracy theory, about WHO, Bill Gates and coronavirus, sharing a recurrent pro-Kremlin narrative about "secret elites" controlling world leaders and part of the anti-vax movement. Vaccine hesitancy is identified by WHO as one of the top ten global health threats of 2019. There is an overwhelming scientific consensus about the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

See similar cases claming that Bill Gates and Co aspire to a reduction in population, that survivors will be poisoned with vaccines, or Covid-19 will allow total control of the population through forced vaccination and chips.