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Russia spreading disinformation about coronavirus: US officials | Coronavirus pandemic News

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Russian intelligence operatives are using a trio of English-language websites to spread disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, seeking to exploit a crisis that the United States is struggling to contain ahead of the presidential election in November, US officials said Tuesday.

Two Russians who have held senior roles in Moscow’s military intelligence service, known as the GRU, have been identified as responsible for a disinformation effort directed at US and Western audiences, US government officials said. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly.

The information had previously been classified, but officials said it had been downgraded so they could more freely discuss it. Officials said they were doing so now to sound the alarm about the particular websites and to expose a connection between the sites and Russian intelligence.

Between late May and early July, one of the officials said, a trio of websites published about 150 articles about the pandemic response, including coverage aimed at propping up Russia and denigrating the US.

The websites published about 150 articles about the coronavirus pandemic between late May and early July [Chris Pizzello/AP] 

Among the headlines that caught the attention of US officials are “Russia’s Counter COVID-19 Aid to America Advances Case for Detente,” which suggested that Russia had given urgent and substantial aid to the US to fight the pandemic, and “Beijing Believes COVID-19 is a Biological Weapon”.

The disclosure comes as the spread of disinformation, including by Russia, is an urgent concern heading into November’s presidential election as US officials look to avoid a repeat of the 2016 contest, when Russia launched a covert social media campaign to divide US public opinion to favour then-candidate Donald Trump. The chief US counterintelligence official warned in a public statement Friday about Russia’s continued use of internet trolls to advance its goals.

Even apart from politics, the twin crises buffeting the country and much of the world – the pandemic and race relations and protests – have offered fertile territory for misinformation or outfight falsehoods.

Officials described the disinformation as part of an ongoing and persistent Russian effort to cause confusion. They did not say whether the effort was directly related to the November election, though some of the coverage on the websites appeared to denigrate Trump’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. The stories call to mind Russian efforts from 2016 to exacerbate race relations in the US and drive corruption allegations against US political figures.

US officials on Tuesday singled out a news agency, InfoRos.ru, that operates a trio of websites – InfoRos.ru, Infobrics.org and OneWorld.press – that they say have leveraged the pandemic to promote anti-Western objectives and to spread disinformation.

Joe Biden BBB fourth plank

The sites also carry stories about US politics including ones about presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

The sites promote their narratives in a sophisticated but insidious effort that officials liken to money laundering, where stories in well-written English – and often with pro-Russian sentiment and anti-US sentiment – are cycled through other news sources to conceal their origin and enhance the legitimacy of the information.

The sites also amplify stories that originate elsewhere, the government officials said.

The sites focus on contemporary politics as well. A headline Tuesday on InfoRos.ru about the unrest roiling major US cities read “Chaos in the Blue Cities”, accompanying a story that lamented how New Yorkers who grew up experiencing the tough-on-crime approach of Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg “must adapt to life in high-crime urban areas”.

Another story carried the headline of “Ukrainian Trap for Biden”, and claimed that “Ukrainegate” – a reference to stories surrounding Biden’s son Hunter’s former ties to a Ukraine gas company – “keeps unfolding with renewed vigors”.

Two individuals who have also held leadership roles at InfoRos, identified Tuesday as Denis Valeryevich Tyurin and Aleksandr Gennadyevich Starunskiy, have previously served in a GRU unit specialising in military psychological intelligence and maintain deep contacts there, the officials said.

InfoRos and One World’s ties to the Russian state have attracted scrutiny in the past from European disinformation analysts.

In 2019, a European Union task force that studies disinformation campaigns identified One World as “a new addition to the pantheon of Moscow-based disinformation outlets”. The task force noted that One World’s content often parrots the Russian state agenda on issues including the war in Syria.

A report published last month by a second, nongovernmental organization, Brussels-based EU DisinfoLab, examined links between InfoRos and One World to Russian military intelligence. The researchers identified technical clues tying their websites to Russia and identified some financial connections between InfoRos and the government.

“InfoRos is evolving in a shady grey zone, where regular information activities are mixed with more controversial actions that could be quite possibly linked to the Russian state’s information operations,” the report’s authors concluded.

On its English-language Facebook page, InfoRos describes itself as an “Information agency: world through the eyes of Russia”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Muntu Blocked in Kamwenge

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Alliance for National Transformation presidential candidate Gen. Mugisha Muntu has been blocked from campaigning in Kamwenge according to a statement he released earlier today.Below is the full statement:

STATEMENT
Today in Kamwenge, as we have done since the start of the campaign season, we headed out to speak with the people. We had earlier in the week agreed on the venue with security agencies. No one had anticipated that it would rain as much as it did, making it impossible for us or the people to access.

After identifying an alternative place only 100m away from the original venue, negotiating with the owner and communicating the same to the public, we headed to the second venue only to be stopped by police.

Our policy has always been to do all we can to be reasonable, even in the face of unreasonable action on the part of the state. We engaged the police leadership in a civilized, respectable manner well knowing that they intended to not only frustrate us, but cause us to act in ways that would give them an excuse to cause chaos. This was on top of their intimidating the radio we had booked and duly paid to appear on.

While we are confident that we are on the right side of both the law and reason, we have chosen not to endanger the lives of our supporters or the general public by escalating the situation. We will do everything humanly possible to avoid a single life being lost or blood being shed on account of our campaign.

And yet this truth remains: the regime’s days are numbered.

ChangeYouCanTrust

CountryBeforeSelf

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Is Johnson Byabashaija courting Enid Kukunda for protection?

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The very amiable Commissioner General of Prisons Canon Johnson Byabashaija was recently sighted with President Y K Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s second wife Enid Kukunda as the two had a very secretive meeting in one of the city hangouts.

According to our informers, the two seem to be in a deep conversation that they wouldn’t allow a housefly pass around. However, sources further reveal that Byabashaija could have courted the second lady for protection given that he has amassed a lot of wealth and could be a subject of investigations.

Our sources reveal that Byabashaija who carries himself as Mr.I know it all hasn’t met Madam Enid alone but a host of others with connections to the centre of power in the country.

We will bring you more detail

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Bobi Wine released on Bail

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Presidential candidate and kyadondo East legislator Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu has been realeased on bail by the Iganga magistrates court where he appeared to defend himself against accusations of flouting COVID-19 campaign SOPs. A defiant Kyagulanyi took the opportunity to blast the incumbent Yoweri Museveni, whom he accuses of using state power to quell dissident.

This follows a tense week that has seen thousands injured and several dead following Hon. Kyagulanyi’s arrest earlier this week. Demonstrations and riots erupted in many parts of the country and heavy police and army deployment was seen all over the country.

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