US officials said on Tuesday that Russian intelligence operatives were using English-language websites to spread disinformation about the coronovirus epidemic, so as to exploit a crisis.
US government officials said the two Russians who played senior roles in Moscow’s military intelligence service, known as the GRU, are believed to be responsible for a disruptive effort directed at US and Western audiences. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
The information was previously classified, but officials said it had been downgraded so that they could discuss it more independently. Officials said they were now doing this to sound the alarm about particular websites and highlight a connection between the sites and Russian intelligence.
Between late May and early July, one of the officials said, a trio of websites published 150 articles about the response to the epidemic, including coverage intended to advance Russia and discredit the US.
The headlines that have attracted the attention of US officials are “Russia’s Counter COVID-19 Aid to America Advance Case for Detente”, which states that Russia provided immediate and adequate aid to the US to fight the epidemic, and Beijing Believers COVID-19 is a biological weapon “.
The disclosure comes as dissemination of disinformation is a major concern by Russia in the November presidential election, as US officials look to avoid a repeat of the 2016 contest, when Russia has pushed American public views Launched a secret social media campaign to divide then-candidate Donald Trump. The chief US counterclaim official warned in a public statement on Friday that Russia was consistently using Internet trolls to pursue its goals.
Even aside from politics, twin crises have arisen in most parts of the country and the world – epidemics and race relations and protests have offered fertile territory for misinformation or lies of organization.
Authorities described disinfection as part of a sustained and persistent Russian effort to create confusion. He did not reveal whether the effort was directly related to the November election, although some coverage appeared on websites to discredit Trump’s Democratic challenger Joe Biden. In 2016, the stories call to mind Russian efforts to intensify race relations in the US and to remove allegations of corruption against American political figures.
US officials said on Tuesday a news agency, InfoRos.ru, which operates a trio of websites – InfoRos.ru, Infobrics.org and OneWorld.press – said they said they promoted and disrupted anti-Western objectives Have taken advantage of the epidemic to spread. .
The sites promote their narratives in a sophisticated yet insidious effort that favors officials for money laundering, where stories in well-written English – and often with pro-Russian and anti-American sentiment – hide their origins in other Cycling through news sources increase the validity of information.
Government officials said the sites also enhance stories that originate elsewhere.
The sites also focus on contemporary politics. On Tuesday, a headline read “Chaos in the Blue Cities” on InfoRos.ru about major cities causing unrest in American cities, with a story that wrote Mayor Rudin Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg’s hard-to-find crime How New Yorkers grew up experiencing the approach. Should be compatible with life in high-crime urban areas ”.
Another story made the headline of “Ukrainian Trap for Biden”, and claimed that “Ukrainegate” – a reference to the stories surrounding Biden’s son Hunter’s former ties to the Ukraine gas company – “would be revealing with renewed vivacity is”.
Officials said the two individuals also held leadership roles at Informos, identified on Tuesday as Denis Valleraivich Turin and Aleksandr Gennadevich Starunsky, who previously served in the GRU unit specializing in military psychological intelligence and where Maintain deep contact.
Inforos and One World’s ties to the Russian state have attracted scrutiny from European disinvestment analysts in the past.
In 2019, an EU task force that studies disruptive campaigns identified One World as “a new addition to the pantheon of Moscow-based disruptive outlets”. The task force noted that One World’s content often parrots the Russian state’s agenda on issues including the war in Syria.
A report published last month, a second, non-governmental organization, Brussels-based European Union of Disinfolab, investigated the relationship between Russian military intelligence between Inforos and One World. Researchers identified technical clues tying their websites in Russia and some financial connections between InfoRos and the government.
The authors of the report concluded, “Inforos is developing in a shady gray area, where regular information activities are combined with more controversial tasks, which may possibly be associated with the information operations of the Russian state.”
On its English-language Facebook page, InfoRos called itself “the information agency: seeing the world through Russia’s eye”.