In a time that calls for international cooperation to fight a common threat, Kremlin mouthpiece Sputnik chooses to spread disinformation about COVID-19.
A Sputnik article published on 15 March promoted an entire catalog of unfounded theories about the origin of the coronavirus: from the idea that COVID-19 could originate in Latvia to the suggestion that it could have been created as a means to reduce the number of elderly people in Italy.
The article in question was published in Russian by Sputnik Latvia under the headline, “Coronavirus Invented in Latvia? Why Not?” and suggested looking for who could benefit from the crisis.
According to the publication, COVID-19 could serve the interests of The Communist Party of China to stop protests in Hong Kong; governments challenged by the Yellow Vest movement; Italy to limit the economic burden of retired citizens; and Europe as a whole to not let in refugees via Turkey.
In addition, Sputnik suggested that COVID-19 could help Greta Thunberg to promote her green agenda; European tourist magnets Prague, Barcelona and Venice to limit noise and garbage; and feminists to see more women on corporate boards, as the virus is allegedly more dangerous to men than to women.
Finally, in the spirit of the saying that “all politics is local,” Sputnik suggested that the virus could be used by Latvian authorities to postpone local elections in Riga, as well as to further a number of other potentially unpopular measures, using the virus challenge as an excuse.
Sputnik Latvia does not stand alone; also other branches of the Russian state-owned media outlet have disseminated conspiracy theories about COVID-19. Sputnik in Arabic has speculated that coronavirus could be an American biological attack; that president Trump ordered such an attack to happen and that it has been manufactured to target Asians.
In Armenia, Sputnik has suggested that the coronavirus was created in a laboratory and labeled the virus an example of hybrid warfare. In Azerbaidjan, Sputnik has presented COVID19 as a tool to weaken the Chinese economy, as has Sputnik’s branch in Belarus.
Also in Belarus, Sputnik has suggested that coronavirus could have been developed in NATO biological laboratories, while the branch in Georgia has spoken of the epidemic as not accidental and with economic goals.
Sputnik’s Spanish language branch has suggested that COVID-19 could be an American biological weapon; as a means to isolate China and to spread panic and divert attention from unpopular issues, such as Brexit.