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How Russia Amplifies Covid-19 Conspiracies In Eastern Europe

December 21st, 2021 16:17

UK media is report­ing that East­ern Euro­peans’ hos­til­i­ty to Covid-19 vac­cines and vac­cine man­dates can be traced back to Russ­ian infor­ma­tion and influ­ence oper­a­tions. Accord­ing to a report in The Independent:

Decem­ber 15, 2021 Adri­an Onciu had a tough time find­ing some­where to pub­lish his coro­n­avirus vac­cine sto­ries.  The Roman­ian journalist’s reports alleged nefar­i­ous ties between Euro­pean Com­mis­sion chief Ursu­la von der Leyen and the Covid vac­cine mak­er Pfiz­er, as well as schemes by Amer­i­can firms and offi­cials to manip­u­late media on behalf of the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try. His pieces were reject­ed by just about every news out­let in Roma­nia, includ­ing one web­site that recent­ly fea­tured an arti­cle about chew­ing gums that ward off Covid.  But Mr Onciu, who con­ced­ed in an inter­view he had no doc­u­men­tary evi­dence to sub­stan­ti­ate his claims, even­tu­al­ly found a plat­form that would not only pub­lish his work but promi­nent­ly pro­mote it as a mul­ti-part series on its web­site: Russia’s state-owned Sput­nik news ser­vice, which is seen as a pro­pa­gan­da tool of the Kremlin. […]

Rus­sia is also seen as influ­enc­ing or back­ing sev­er­al far-right polit­i­cal par­ties with anti-vac­ci­na­tion agen­das. One pro-Russ­ian Bul­gar­i­an group called Revival of the Home­land man­aged to win enough votes in Novem­ber elec­tions to enter par­lia­ment for the first time since it was found­ed, draw­ing votes from oppo­nents of the country’s vac­ci­na­tion man­date. […] Much of the mes­sag­ing by both Russ­ian-allied polit­i­cal play­ers and pro­pa­gan­da cam­paigns is aimed at Pfiz­er and Mod­er­na. Reports ques­tion their effi­ca­cy and safe­ty as well as the agen­das of the peo­ple behind them. Web­sites such as news-front.info, run by the pro-Krem­lin jour­nal­ist Kon­stan­tin Knyrik, ampli­fy rumours and innu­en­do in Bul­gar­i­an, Geor­gian, Hun­gar­i­an, Slo­vak, Pol­ish and Serbian.

Read the rest here.

The report notes the east­ern and cen­tral Euro­pean strug­gle against the vac­cine hes­i­tan­cy that has ham­pered efforts to build up resis­tance to Covid-19. UK media report­ed last month that the death rate from Covid-19 hit record highs in Bul­gar­ia, Latvia, and Roma­nia, where only 23%, 34%, and 57% of the respec­tive pop­u­la­tion are double-vaccinated.

Sput­nik is a state-owned Russ­ian news agency estab­lished in 2014 and oper­at­ing in over 30 lan­guages. It has been fre­quent­ly accused of spread­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion and is mon­i­tored by the strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tion divi­sions of the EU and NATO.

News­front is a Crimea-based mul­ti-lan­guage news out­let that has been accused by the US of work­ing with Russ­ian intel­li­gence ser­vices and which has been des­ig­nat­ed by the US over dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts and inter­fer­ence in the pres­i­den­tial elections.