U.S. officials are warning that Russia appears to be the source of a number of articles on the novel coronavirus that contain serious and detrimental information. Authorities have added that they believe the move is an attempt to sow discord throughout the country.
According to The Associated Press, national intelligence officials have learned that two Russians who had previously held leadership roles in the GRU, Moscow’s military intelligence service, have been responsible for hundreds of fake news stories related to the coronavirus that contain false or misleading information.
Moreover, the authorities noted that they appear to have been specifically targeted to Americans and other western audiences, noting that they were written in English.
In total, at least 150 articles were published between late May and early July. Most of them centered around coverage that negatively documented the U.S.’s handling of the pandemic while praising Moscow’s efforts.
For example, once article cited by authorities included “Russia’s Counter COVID-19 Aid to America Advances Case for Détente,” which falsely suggested that Russia had given America virus-related aid.
Another was “Beijing Believes COVID-19 is a Biological Weapon,” which furthered Chinese conspiracy theories that have claimed that the virus, which as infected nearly 17 million around the globe and claimed 660,000 lives, was actually brought to China by a member of the American military as a weapon.
“From conspiracy theory to geopolitical realism, the possibility to treat COVID-19 as a biological weapon has been finally accepted in the public sphere. The recent statement by the Chinese spokesman Zhao Lijian, formally accusing the U.S. of bringing coronavirus to China, has highlighted a series of new opinions about the pandemic,” the fake news article claimed.
In addition, the Russian team also published posts that were not coronavirus-related, but instead touched on contentious topics including the Black Lives Matter movement and tensions between the U.S. and China.
Though officials stopped short of claiming this was an example of interference for the 2020 presidential election, they did note that some of the articles did disparage Democratic candidate Joe Biden, suggesting a slight political bent.
However, National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina emphasized that the main goal remains to weaken the country.
“Russia’s persistent objective is to weaken the United States and diminish our global role. Using [online methods] Russia continues to spread disinformation in the U.S. that is designed to undermine confidence in our democratic process,” he wrote in a statement published on the Director of National Intelligence’s website.
Russia had grabbed headlines last week after being accused by the Space Force of conducting a missile test in space, as was previously covered by The Inquisitr.