COVID-19 spreads all around the world and pandemic still is far from its ending. The large number of lethal cases and the rocketing number of ill persons naturally creates panic thoughts among the people, in global network particularly.
Though the natural causes of origin of such hoaxes and beliefs, we constantly face the cases when Russian state and associated medias intentionally share fake information for the sake of boosting panic among the citizens of EU, to discredit the trust in public democratic institutions and in their ability to overcome the crisis, provoked by the pandemic. Some media sources and top bloggers actively promote the idea of EU’s inability to survive the crisis, provoked by pandemic.
The analysis of media space, performed by the European External Action Service, let us highlight the most important and destructive narratives of Russian medias. To catch these narratives I suggest you some examples of fakes and manipulations. I have to admit that the classification of Russian narratives related to COVID-19 pandemic becomes one of the most prolific targets of information security.
1. On March 28, 2019 Russian state channel “Channel One” broadcasted the show “One enemy for the whole world. The big game” (https://youtube.com/watch?v=0GP2bpqfLfg&t=67). It was stated that NATO members were allegedly forced by the US to increase defense expenses and that is the reason for the low effectiveness of national healthcare systems, the lack of medicines and lung ventilators etc. “European Union was only effective instrument of sanctions against Russia, but it turned out to be completely ineffective as the organization which can help its members”.
We deal with manipulation, because for a long period of time the defense expenses of NATO members were never increased through the decreasing of healthcare programs in these countries. In 2006, the council of defense ministers of NATO members agreed that not less than 2% of GDP must be issued to finance NATO. There is no correlation between defense expenses and healthcare expenses. Likewise, funding allocated to support healthcare programs is up to particular country, in exactly the same way as each country of EU has its own budget and tax law. For example, France spent 11.3% of its GDP to finance healthcare in 2017, and UK spent 9.6% of its GDP for that purpose before its withdraw from EU.
2. On March 28, 2020 German version of Russian propagandist media Sputnik posted the article (https://de.sputniknews.com/gesellschaft/20200328326714374-haendewaschen-bringt-gar-nichts–hygienearzt-kritisiert-massnahmen-zum-schutz-vor-covid-19/), which suggests that washing hands does not protects from COVID-19.
At the same time, there are no scientific researches which prove that washing hands does not help to protect yourself from virus. Moreover, WHO as well as national healthcare ministries permanently admitted that “regularly and thoroughly cleaning your hands or washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub demonstrably kills viruses on hands” which prevents spreading of COVID-19. In case of Sputnik we have to deal with extremely dangerous lie, which provokes chaos and facilitate the pandemic.
3. On March 29, 2020 One Nation published the article (http://oneworld.press/?module=articles&action=view&id=1379) titled “The Slums Of Southern Europe, The New Slave Market Of The EU, And The Coronavirus”. It states that EU is going to its end the same as Rome Empire did, European countries allegedly cannot help each other and only the aid from China and Russia can save the Europe. The article mentions that there are no masks in Europe, no medical equipment, that rule of force is coming back. Also it is stated that Europe is on the way to decay, while Russia and China are on the way to their glory. It is probably one of the most striking examples of anti-European propaganda which encompass all propaganda stock phrases used by Russia.
It is worth mentioning that such articles come up in the moment, when the European Commission accepted the complex measures on stabilization of members’ economies, agreed liberal amendments to tax laws and is on the way to accept the 37 billion euros Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative which is focused on support of small business and health care in EU member states.
To overcome the pandemic of COVID-19, the European Commision allocate 47.5 million euros to finance the epidemiological and public healthcare researches to prevent such pandemics in future. That is, the article is misleading and mendacious, aimed to set up panic among the citizens of the European states.
4. Another example of manipulations is article published by Russian propagandist “The Fund of Strategic Culture” (https://www.fondsk.ru/news/2020/03/31/v-italjanskom-parlamente-spuskajut-flag-evropejskogo-souza-50502.html) “Italian parliament lowers the EU flag” of March 31, 2020. In the text of article it is told that the only one deputy of Italian parliament removed the EU flag from his office (not from the parliament building!) and replaced it with Italian flag. Such an action of one deputy cannot be presented as the decision of the whole parliament and it cannot be the proof of possible Italy’s withdrawal from the EU. The aim of this manipulation is boosting anti-European, separatists ideas among EU people, who survives really hard times of coronavirus pandemic.
No doubt it is not the full list of manipulations, misleadings and other methods of information war applied by Russia against Europe for the recent time.
No doubt that world is in struggle with pandemic, millions of Europeans are fighting for their lives. Maybe, in the time of pandemic which has taken thousands of lives, information attacks of Russia can be treated as not really important.
Still we have to keep in mind that using world disaster, using pandemic as a tool to swing the European Union, spending huge amounts of money to the prejudice of its citizens, their health care and safety, Russia can complete this mission!
That is why we have to stay vigilant and to keep tabs on our information security.