According to the US officials, Russian intelligence services are using a trio of English-language websites to share fakes about COVID-19 pandemic, aiming to increase crisis that the US faces ahead of presidential election in November. As the mentioned officials were not authorized to speak about this case publicly, they revealed information on conditions of anonymity.
It was also reported that the high-rank officers of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Ministry of Defence are responsible for disinformation attempts meant to cause panic among American and European network users. The information about their activity had been classified, but the decision was taken to inform world community about the particular web sources and the direct link between these sites and Russian intelligence.
During the late May and early July, one of the officials said, the websites mentioned in classified report, published approximately 150 articles, which included alleged efforts of Russia to overcome COVID-19 pandemic and strong criticism over the US policy.
Among the headlines of these article it is worth mentioning “Russia’s Counter COVID-19 Aid to America Advances Case for Detente,” which contained completely wrong information about Russian aid sent to the US, and “Beijing Believes COVID-19 is a Biological Weapon,” which revealed highly controversial and disputed version about artificial nature of COVID-19, which has already been rejected by the experts of World Health Organization.
The disclosure of fake and unverified information via the sources controlled by the Russian military intelligence is definitely associated with November’s presidential election as U.S. officials are looking forward to avoid repeat of the 2016 contest, when a Russian troll farm launched a covert social media campaign to bring media coverage and support of Donald Trump over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. It is very disappointing that some of the fake messages (e.g. misinformation about a disproven drug for treating the coronavirus), published by Russian-controlled sources were accepted and even shared by the US President Donald Trump’s official pages in social networks. Officials described the Russian disinformation as part of an ongoing and persistent effort to advance false narratives and cause confusion among West community.
U.S. officials have identified two of the people believed to be behind the sites’ operations. The men, Denis Valeryevich Tyurin and Aleksandr Gennadyevich Starunskiy, have previously held leadership roles at InfoRos but have also served in a GRU unit specializing in military psychological intelligence and maintain deep contacts there, the officials said.
InfoRos and One World’s ties to the Russian state have attracted scrutiny in the past from European disinformation analysts. We are going to continue our effort to inform our audience about such examples and schemes of spreading fakes related to the world pandemic, which is still going on right now.