Russia has added information warfare troops to its military, Moscow’s defense chief said in a speech to parliament on Wednesday.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu would not describe the troops' mission to the State Duma, but said, “Propaganda should be smart, competent and effective," according to The Associated Press.
The troops' tasks will be to “protect the national defense interests and engage in information warfare,” Ret.Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, the head of a defense affairs committee in the Russian parliament, told Interfax.
He added that part of their mission is to fend off enemy cyberattacks, according to the AP.
“The information operations forces have been established, that are expected to be a far more effective tool than all we used before for counter-propaganda purposes," Shoigu said in a speech addressing Russia’s military modernization, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.
The public announcement of Russia’s new information warfare forces comes less than two months after the U.S. intelligence community released a report concluding that Russia engaged in a cyber and disinformation campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election.
That campaign involved the use of state-run media to disseminate pro-Russian propaganda to both Russian and international audiences, according to the intelligence community. Russia has denied the claims of election interference.
U.S. lawmakers have grown increasingly wary of Russia’s use of cyber capabilities and propaganda in the wake of the election hacking and Moscow’s continued intervention in Ukraine, which has been targeted by pro-Russian propaganda. Moscow has also used propaganda to influence the Baltic states.
Russia’s influence campaign against the U.S. election has stoked fears that Moscow will interfere in upcoming elections in Europe.