According to a Financial Times article, an EU report warns about the diffusion of fake news by Russian media, in an attempt to discredit involved governments and aggravate the ongoing crisis.

Can this be confirmed factually or is it just a supposition?


3 Answers 3


The Guardian has a few more examples:

One conspiracy theory aired on Kremlin-backed Sputnik radio in February drew a parallel between the 19th-century opium wars and coronavirus, implying that “England” and unnamed “international organisations” were seeking to control Chinese internal affairs, just as the British empire forced China to open its markets and cede territory at gunpoint.

Meanwhile, the website Ria Fan claimed that a “false panic” about Covid-19 would benefit pharmaceutical companies looking to make “lucre” from the virus. And against a soundtrack of menacing music, Ren TV’s Military Secret documentary claimed the virus could be a “biological weapon” disseminated by US special forces in China.

And also a bit more commentary from the leaked EU report:

Researchers at Cardiff University’s centre for crime and security research, who carried out research with the commission, found an evolution in tactics by pro-Kremlin media.

Rather than authoring disinformation, Russian sources were amplifying theories that had originated elsewhere, such as China, Iran or the US far right, the researchers said. “This tactic allows them to avoid the accusation of creating disinformation themselves, claiming instead that they are merely reporting what others are saying,” the report stated.

But I'll also note here from the same source that (officially) Russia has strongly denied doing any of this

Russia has strongly denied the accusations. “If there was even a single concrete example, I could comment on it, but once again they are just unfounded accusations,” said a spokesman for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

I suppose one gets into a debate here how much state control Russia exercises over channels like Ren TV etc. (From the Wikipedia page on the latter, I see there has been concern within Russia itself, e.g. from their Science and Education ministry, that Ren TV has aired pseudoscience on other occasions.)

The EU (probably the US too) generally see[s] little difference between the privately owned Russian channels and state propaganda, as discussed on a EU-sponsored site:

A journalistic research project undertaken last year by the independent Russian news outlet RBC showed that RIA FAN, the mother company of “USA Really. Wake Up Americans”, is in fact itself an offspring project of the famous St. Petersburg “troll factory”. RIA FAN shared its first address with the trolls before moving into its separate premises; however, according to RBC, the owner remained the same, namely Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is currently criminally charged in the United States for his participation in a conspiracy to “sow discord in the U.S. political system,” including the 2016 presidential election. [...]

Indeed, with the prospect of running both a national news agency (RIA FAN) and international version (USA Really. Wake Up Americans), Yevgeny Prigozhin’s private media holding begins to resemble first of all the Russian government’s Rossiya Segodnya media holding, which also controls both a national news agency, RIA Novosti, and one of the official international propaganda online resources, Sputnik, tied together under the leadership of the EU-sanctioned propagandist CEO Dmitry Kiselev.

Gradually, it becomes difficult, and thereby also less and less relevant, to distinguish between the pro-Kremlin propaganda that comes from outlets owned and controlled by the Russian authorities, such as RIA Novosti and Sputnik, and the privately owned and theoretically independent, but no less Kremlin-loyal outlets, which, as RIA FAN and its new international offspring, depend on schemes involving both the government’s political approval and the government’s money.

[If you're confused about that: "USA Really. Wake Up Americans" is the official/real name of a Russian privately-owned "information agency"...]

  • Cardiff University’s centre for crime and security research says: Our long-term collaborative relationships include: South Wales Police the Home Office UK and US militaries IBM NHS Counter Terrorism Command European External Action Service. I can't see where their funding comes from or who controls the organization. Apr 15, 2020 at 18:25

The EU document isn't public, but eg DW names one example from it:

A specialist EU database gathered almost 80 cases of disinformation about coronavirus since January 22, according to the document, citing examples from Lithuania and Ukraine to Slovakia. [...]

According to the EU document, a fake letter claiming to hail from the Ukrainian Health Ministry falsely reported five coronavirus cases in the country.

In addition to the EU accusations, similar accusations were made by the US a month ago:

US officials said Russian-linked accounts were making unfounded claims that America started the outbreak. [...]

[A] senior US State Department official, Philip Reeker, said "malign" Russian actors were attempting to sow disinformation about the origin of the coronavirus. [...]

According to AFP news agency, the disinformation campaign was identified by US monitors in mid-January [...]

"In this case, we were able to see their full disinformation ecosystem in effect, including state TV, proxy web sites and thousands of false social media personas all pushing the same themes," said Lea Gabrielle, the head of the State Department's Global Engagement Centre. [...]

One of the country's main TV networks, Channel One, has launched a regular slot devoted to coronavirus conspiracy theories on its main evening news programme.

Wikipedia gives one concrete example:

Zvezda, a news outlet funded by the Russian Defense Ministry, published an article titled "Coronavirus: American biological warfare against Russia and China", claiming that the virus is intended to damage the Chinese economy, weakening its hand in the next round of trade negotiations.

RT alluded to this as well.


Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty has published this article claiming the link between Russian proxy accounts and COVID-19 disinformation.

The Washington Times has this story on coronavirus disinformation campaigns (both Russian and Chinese actors).

Russia's KGB recorded historical documentation of their own disinformation campaigns ("Active Measures") against the United States since at least the 1960s, and through at least the 1980s. Active Measures have been one of their strategies that was documented by Andrew and Mitrokhin from the KGB's own historical archives, as published in The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archives.

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