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.
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.
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 UK, US 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”.