KEY POINTS

  • Fake news from Russia alleges the Wuhan coronavirus is a biological warfare weapon developed by the U.S.
  • The coronavirus was allegedly unleashed in an effort to cripple China's economy
  • The other aim is to develop an antidote for this weapon

Russian spies are up to their old tricks, this time blaming the United States for unleashing the raging Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on China in a Trump-sanctioned effort to cripple the latter's economy. They contend 2019-nCoV is really an American biowarfare weapon developed by U.S. scientists and covertly launched by American spies to destroy rival China.

As the Soviet Union, Russia tried the same thing in the 1980s when it blamed the U.S. for creating the AIDS virus and letting it loose on the world. Since then, Russian spies are using disinformation, and what's now known as fake news, to spread their conspiracy theories.

Eto Buziashvili, an analyst at the Atlantic Foundation’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, published a report Thursday detailing how Russia’s state propaganda units are disseminating different versions of conspiracy theories alleging the coronavirus is a U.S.-creation, and a bioweapon designed to maim China.

Western intelligence sources quoted by media said social media posts blaming the U.S. for attacking China with 2019-nCoV (also known as the Wuhan coronavirus) first began appearing on pro-Russia social media outlets. The fake news has now spread to traditional Russian news media organizations such as Pravda and Izvestia, the state propaganda platforms and Russian politicians. It's also widely disseminated among social media platforms, including YouTube; VK (VKontakte), the Russian online social media and social networking service based in Saint Petersburg; and Topcor.ru, a news and media website.

State-controlled outlets are accusing the U.S. of using bioweapons against China. They also claim the U.S. is using economic and military tools to add more pressure on China, the world's second largest economy and Russia's most powerful ally.

The economic version of the "Made In USA Coronavirus" conspiracy theory pushed by Topcor.ru is a fake news story the coronavirus is America's revenge on China for the ongoing trade war that's cost the U.S. billions of dollars. The narrative says the U.S. will benefit immensely from the damage the coronavirus will inflict on China's already weak economy.

Citing unnamed sources, a Russian website called Katushya.org alleges the People's Liberation Army (PLA), China's armed forces, is claiming the coronavirus was artificially produced in U.S. laboratories with the goal of destroying China from within. The website contends the outbreak is a U.S. bioweaponry reconnaissance operation with the goal of testing the capabilities of Chinese biological weapons defenses.

Pro-Kremlin media and social media outlets are citing "military expert" Igor Nikulin, who claims the sudden appearance of the coronavirus looked like sabotage. Nikulin claims the U.S. actively researches lethal disease vectors to test them within a population while simultaneously developing cures for them.

Since China reported a new coronavirus at the end of December, the SARS-like virus has infected more than 500 and killed 17 Since China reported a new coronavirus at the end of December, the SARS-like virus has infected more than 500 and killed 17 Photo: AFP / NICOLAS ASFOURI