Pro-Kremlin media outlets are deliberately undermining public trust in the response to the deadly viral outbreak through a “significant disinformation campaign”. The EU’s External Action Service claimed Moscow was hoping to spread “confusion, panic and fear” and “subvert European societies from within” as the bloc’s leaders respond to the pandemic. Foreign affairs officials found around 80 cases of coronavirus-related disinformation this year, according to the report.
The dossier said: “A significant disinformation campaign by Russian state media and pro-Kremlin outlets regarding Covid-19 is ongoing.
“The overarching aim of Kremlin disinformation is to aggravate the public health crisis in western countries, specifically by undermining public trust in national healthcare systems – thus preventing an effect response to the outbreak.”
Eurocrats also claim “Russian state-linked false personas” that previously posted about Syria and the French gilet Jaunes protests have switched to “pushing disinformation about coronavirus in English, Spanish, Italian, Germany and French online”.
A recent report from Kremlin-backed Russia Today showed Britons ignoring the shutdown while visiting the Spanish seaside resort of Benidorm.
The video posted on the organisation’s UK Twitter account has racked up some six million views since being published on Monday.
One lager-drinking Briton is quoted as saying: “It’s just a flu that you need to get over… have a beer, happy days.”
The EU report said the Russian strategy is to “deploy dozens of different and often contradictory narratives that are disseminated through official channels, as well as online through social media”.
The analysis added: “The campaign is designed to exacerbate confusion, panic and fear, and to prevent people from accessing reliable information about the virus and public safety provisions.
“These efforts are in line with the Kremlin’s broader strategy of attempting to subvert European societies from within by exploiting their vulnerabilities and divisions.”
“We noticed there was a pickup in disinformation fed from outside the EU, among others, also from Russia or from providers that are based in Russia or linked somehow to pro-Kremlin sources.”
Russia has denied previous allegations by western governments of using disinformation campaigns, most notably around the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election in 2016.