“One was amplifying the other…How much it was command controlled, how much it was opportunistic, it was hard to tell,” said Janis Sarts, director of the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, based in Riga, Latvia. Long-term, he added, China is “the more formidable competitor and adversary because of the technological capabilities they bring to the table.”
‘THE TRUTH AS I SEE IT’
In January, long before China began overtly spreading disinformation, Russian state media swept in to legitimize the theory that the U.S. engineered the virus as a weapon.
On Jan. 20, the Russian Army’s media outlet, Zvezda, announced that the outbreak in China was linked to a bioweapons test, citing a four-time failed political candidate named Igor Nikulin.
Nikulin claims to have worked with the United Nations on disarmament in Iraq from 1998 to 2003, including as an adviser to former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
But the U.N. has no record of his service. Richard Butler, the lead U.N. weapons inspector at the time, told AP he’s never heard of him. Neither has Hans Corell, who served as Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel of the United Nations from 1994-2004, where he worked closely with Annan.
Nikulin said records of his U.N. work may have been destroyed and stuck by his theory that COVID is a U.S. bioweapon – a claim that has been repeatedly debunked. “What other proof is needed?!” he said in an email to AP.
Over the next two months, more than 70 articles appeared in pro-Kremlin media making similar bioweapons claims in Russian, Spanish, Armenian, Arabic, English and German, according to AP’s analysis of a database compiled by EUvsDisinfo, which tracks disinformation for the European Union.
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