Coronavirus

Russia Behind COVID Disinformation Campaign, U.S. Officials Say

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu / Getty Images

Three English-language websites have been flagged as fronts for Russian intelligence service disinformation campaigns, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Two government officials identified three websites—InfoRos.ru, Infobrics.org, and OneWorld.press—as sources of Russian state-backed disinformation. Between late May and early July, the sites published about 150 articles about COVID-19 designed to delegitimize U.S. responses and bolster Russia’s reputation.

The articles included "Russia’s Counter COVID-19 Aid to America Advances Case for Détente," which asserted that Russia had sent the United States critical COVID aid, and "Beijing Believes COVID-19 is a Biological Weapon," which repeated dubious statements from the Chinese government.

Some of the stories aimed to take advantage of current unrest in U.S. cities. A Tuesday article from InfoRos.ru called "Chaos in the Blue Cities" lambasted increasing crime rates in New York, arguing that New Yorkers living under tough-on-crime mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg "have zero street smarts" and must now "adapt to life in high-crime urban areas."

This disinformation campaign is not the first time in recent weeks Russia has engaged in cyber warfare. On July 16, U.S. officials warned that a Kremlin-backed hacker ring had attempted to extract sensitive COVID vaccine information from medical research and educational institutions.

Russia also has designs to partner with China on cyber efforts. On Tuesday, a Kremlin spokeswoman announced Moscow’s intention to work more closely with Beijing in information war efforts against the United States.

"Countries should not adopt double standards, interfere in others’ internal affairs or level groundless accusations on other countries’ political systems, development path and state governance based on ideology and political prejudice," said Russian spokeswoman Maria Zakharova and her Chinese counterpart Hua Chunying when the partnership was announced.