Declassified intel says Russia is spreading coronavirus disinformation: reports

Newly declassified intelligence reportedly shows that Russian operatives are using a variety of English-language websites to spread disinformation about the novel coronavirus.

Senior officials with the Russian military intelligence unit known as the GRU are responsible for the disinformation campaign, according to reports from The New York Times and The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The campaign reportedly includes the dissemination of news articles with unfounded claims about the virus’s origins and how Moscow and the U.S. have responded to it, among other things.

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Reports on the disinformation were recently declassified so that officials could speak freely about it, the AP reported, citing comments from two anonymous government officials. The officials did not issue any underlying information regarding Russia's alleged activities.

The news articles were published on websites such as InfoRos.ru, which is controlled by the Russian government, and OneWorld.Press, which U.S. officials say has ties to the GRU, according to the Times.

During a period between late May and June, some of the websites reportedly published 150 articles that spread false claims about the coronavirus pandemic. One article included the headline, “Russia’s Counter COVID-19 Aid to America Advances Case for Détente," which a U.S. official told the AP caught the intelligence community's attention. The headline appeared to falsely suggest that Russia was providing substantial aid to the U.S. amid the outbreak.

Other articles suggested that the coronavirus was part of a U.S. effort to impose its vision of "world order" and that COVID-19 was "an Experiment In Manipulating The World."

The reports about a new alleged Russian disinformation campaign come less than 100 days before the November presidential election, though U.S. government officials told the AP it was unclear if the efforts were linked to the 2020 elections.

The officials did say some of the content on the websites attacked presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate Trump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' MORE

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U.S. intelligence officials have warned recently that foreign nations are attempting to interfere with this year's election.

William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said last week that Russia, Iran and China were actively attempting to sway the fall elections, noting that “the coronavirus pandemic and recent protests ... continue to serve as fodder for foreign influence and disinformation efforts in America.”

The new alleged Russian disinformation campaign deals primarily with websites acting as legitimate news outlets, according to the reports published Tuesday.