According to European diplomats, Russia seeks to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis to sow chaos and discord within Europe, with rumors, false information and fake news.
The European Union thinks that Russian trolls are behind this misinformation campaign. An analysis report carried out by EU diplomatic staff, and recovered by Reuters, the Russian media have set in motion a “significant disinformation campaign” to increase the impact of the coronavirus, generate panic and sow mistrust in the Western countries.
According to the nine-page document, the campaign would disseminate false information in English, Spanish, Italian, German and French.
“The overriding objective of the Kremlin’s disinformation is to aggravate the public health crisis in Western countries (…) in accordance with the broader Kremlin strategy of trying to overthrow European societies,” the authors wrote.
They have documented more than 80 cases of misinformation since January 22.
Disinformation listing site published fake news sourced from Russia about coronavirus
EuvsDisinfo.eu, a site maintained by European diplomats listing fake news and disinformation on the web, published a list of articles shared. The site refers more than a hundred cases currently. The list includes many conspiratorial ideas: SARS-CoV-2 is an American or British originated biological weapon , an American soldier brought the epidemic to Lithuania, the pharmaceutical industry exaggerates the crisis to increase the sales of drugs, Italy is exaggerating the crisis to get European subsidies, etc.
Other messages – more or less contradictory – seek only to generate fear. It would soon be the end of the world, Pope Francis would be sick and on the verge of death, the European Union would be unable to manage the crisis, political institutions would be on the verge of collapse, political leaders would take advantage of the coronavirus to establish a dictatorship, etc.
For its part, the Russian government has obviously rejected these accusations en masse. “These are again unfounded allegations and in the current situation, are probably the result of an anti-Russian obsession,” Dimitri Peskov, Kremlin spokesperson, told Reuters.
Besides, not all western experts fully agree with the analysis of the European Union. Interviewed by Deutsche Welle, Ben Nimmo, a member of the Atlantic Council think tank, thinks that there is no special Kremlin-led campaign, but that it is just the daily work of Russian trolls.