Russia has been promoting its false bioweapons narrative from official accounts, likely to reach people in many countries like Turkey and Japan. In some cases, the posts led from one social media platform to another, which may have advantages if certain features are inaccessible to state-controlled accounts on one platform and not another.
The themes in this disinformation are reminiscent of narratives that Russia and China both spread in 2020 and 2021. The tweet embedded below is from May 2020.
Russian accounts defended China from calls for an investigation after China delayed sharing information about its outbreak with the world.
Russia and China running the same misleading story.
What differs in 2022 is the apparent degree of collaboration, which seems much more overt. Axios reported on March 9, 2022, that China had been purchasing ads on Meta—formerly known as Facebook—promoting pro-Kremlin talking points that downplayed the atrocities Russia is committing.
Russian state-controlled outlets RT and Sputnik News are now blocked in the EU in response to Russia’s unprovoked aggression. Putin responded by blocking Facebook in Russia, although Kremlin affiliates do still have access to the platform, and authors that write for multiple Russian outlets can still share RT and Sputnik content published via other websites that aren’t blocked.
China boosted Russian disinformation on March 8, 2022.
Axios also reported that China has censored what is happening in Ukraine within China. Censoring Russian aggression toward Ukraine domestically may protect the Chinese government from the public backlash against its support of Russia. An example of a Russian diplomatic account promoting the bioweapons narrative is below.
On March 6, state-controlled accounts belonging to Russia and China increased the posts they published referencing a Ukraine-US bioweapons conspiracy. Russia had changed its story from knowing the weapons were there before and saying the US wanted to maintain control (Mar 3) to a story where the Russians discovered a sensational plot (Mar 9).
The combination of closely timed increases, mirroring articles in state-controlled outlets, use of diplomatic and outlet social media accounts, and nearly identical messaging may suggest Russia and China have coordinated their information operations. All posts have been attached to the end of this report in image format.