Russia and Spain have agreed to set up a joint cybersecurity group that aims to stop the spread of damaging disinformation campaigns that have begun to strain their relations, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.
The foreign ministers of the two nations announced the plan amid rising tension in the wake of accusations by Spanish officials that Russians have spread false or misleading information, which has, in part, fueled instability in Spain’s Catalonia region.
Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said he accepts the proposal for a joint cyber group put forth by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, which he said will help Madrid "gauge the extent of the problem and analyze it to prevent it from becoming a source of friction,” according to the AP.
Lavrov also reportedly said he conceded to Borrell that “some Russian mass media go beyond the limits of their professional activity and create inadmissible interference in other countries’ issues."
During the Tuesday meeting in Madrid, Lavrov also denied that any of the campaigns linked back to the Kremlin, the AP reported. Many of Russia's news outlets, however, are state-run or influenced by Moscow.
Spain is not the only country to accuse Russia of using disinformation campaigns to sow discord.
The U.S. intelligence community overwhelmingly concluded after the 2016 presidential election that Russia carried out a sophisticated disinformation campaign on social media that aimed to sow division and anger among the electorate.
Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE, who is investigating Russian interference, indicted 13 nationals and three Russian groups for interfering with the 2016 U.S. elections.
Prosecutors have alleged these Russian actors were tied to the so-called Internet Research Agency, a shadowy Russian troll farm based in St. Petersburg that leveraged Facebook and other social media platforms to spread divisive and inflammatory messages leading up to the 2016 election.
Spreading false information online was just one tier of the attack the Kremlin led against the U.S., however. Russia hackers also attempted to hack the election systems of 21 states ahead of November 2016, officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have said.
Mueller also later indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for their alleged involvement in hacking the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 race.
President TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE has repeatedly blasted Mueller's investigation as a "witch hunt," denying that there was any conspiracy between the his campaign and Moscow to influence the outcome of the election.