‘The EU is failing the fight with COVID-19’: increased tensions amplify pro-Kremlin coverage

The news on suspending vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine and delays in dose supplies caused a spike of false and misleading content claiming that vaccines were developed without rigorous testing. Additionally, the news on side effects and fatalities were tied to the immunisation with Western COVID-19 vaccines by the pro-Kremlin media to showcase the superiority of the Sputnik V. In March, disinformation flow was heavily influenced by increasing tensions between the EU and Russia, and many Kremlin sources claiming that the West was undertaking disinformation campaigns targeting Sputnik V.

COVID-19 related disinformation, DebunkEU data
COVID-19 related disinformation and misinformation by reach and by articles, DebunkEU data
Dynamics of COVID-19 related disinformation, DebunkEU data

Case №1 Sputnik V targeted through a Western-sponsored information campaign

A scenario of an information attack on Sputnik V is being prepared through controlled non-governmental organizations (the US Agency for International Development, Soros’ foundation, Thomson Reuters Foundation) and media structures (BBC, Reuters, Internews) by the U.S. and its allies. The attack aims to promote the claims that Sputnik is unreliable and dangerous by faking mass deaths allegedly caused by using the jab. The move comes as the Russophobes are worried about Russia’s success in fighting COVID-19. (Sputnik, 12/03/2021)

Case №2 Pfizer vaccine causes deaths whereas Sputnik V does not cause serious side effects

During a meeting with participants of the “We Are Together” nationwide volunteer campaign at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: ‘Pfizer is being used. In Switzerland, I think, 16 people died after the vaccine. In some European countries, administering Pfizer vaccine was halted because there also were lethal outcomes. Thank God, we haven’t had any serious side effects.’ (vesti.ru, 04/03/2021)

Case №3 Even though thousands die, the Baltics irrationally oppose Sputnik V vaccine

Foreign policy of the Baltic countries creates conflicts in the international relationship of Eastern Europe. In fact, the Baltics primarily implement the military policy of the U.S. and NATO, even if it goes against EU interests. Such an unbalanced foreign policy causes conflict situations and contradicts interests of the peoples. Thousands of people died of Covid-19 in the Baltic States. Despite the high mortality rate and the huge number of cases of infection, the Baltic leaders refuse the Russian Sputnik V vaccine only because it is form Russia. (The Baltic World, 02/03/2021)

Case №4 The EU is failing the fight with COVID-19 when Russia is succeeding

Eastern European start ordering Sputnik V vaccines without approval from EMA and Brussels as they are aware of their own inferiority in the EU, as well as the fact that they are doomed to receive leftovers of COVID-19 vaccine supplies. At the background of Brexit, the moves may be a very dangerous sign to the [unity of] the EU. A year ago, the EU proved to be unable to deal with the surge of the pandemic, showing confusion and inactivity. Now, the EU proves to be taking erroneous decisions, as evidenced by the fiasco of lockdowns and catastrophic situation with vaccination programme. Meanwhile in Russia, life is getting back to normal. (RIA Novosti, 03/03/2021)

Case №5 The EU is deliberately undermining Sputnik V

According to the press office of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the EU is attempting to take urgent measures to undermine trust in Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine. The desire of certain representatives of the European bureaucracy to unconditionally follow the path of Washington’s harsh attitudes towards Russia and everything connected with the country is acquiring simply grotesque forms, as they are trying to suppress Russia’s activities and take urgent measures to discredit the Russian vaccine. A clear example of the trend is the words by Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for Internal Market, stating that the EU does not need the Sputnik V.

Timeline of a disinformation case, DebunkEU data
Top COVID-19 related disinformation narratives by articles, DebunkEU data
Top COVID-19 related disinformation narratives by reach, DebunkEU data
Top sources by articles and by reach, DebunkEU data

The birth of Debunk EU was a direct response to coordinated, mostly Kremlin sponsored, disinformation and propaganda efforts in the Baltic states.