EXCLUSIVE Internal report warned as early as April 30 that Russia was exploiting population unease during pandemic to build social tension in Romania / How Russia pushed its disinformation campaign in Romania during Covid-19 crisis

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The Russian propaganda intensified its disinformation campaign during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic in Romania, as a report dated April 30, which was seen by, shows. The report warned authorities that population unease during the pandemic was being exploited to build social tension.

(Full G4Media article in Romanian here. An extended summary follows)

  • The news comes as Romania faced its first protest since the pandemic hit on Friday, with another protest due on Saturday. On Friday, the first day of a lower state of alert after two months of state of emergency, about several dozen to 200 people convened before the government HQ in Bucharest to protest authorities’ restrictions in dealing with the pandemic, but also 5G telecoms, vaccines, Bill Gates and other similar targets usually associated with conspiracy theories. People associated with Russian propaganda were among the protesters.

The report seen by was delivered by experts from the Cyber Influence Assessment and Strategies Center (CIASC), a think tank formed of governmental experts and the ITC Research and Development National Institute – ICI Bucharest. It focused on campaigns run through Romanian social media in the second half of April. It found that:
massages were distributed among Romanian social media users depicting the Russian Federation on a positive note.

Among key topics of interests for these messages:

  • Russian support for the transport of Chinese materials to the Republic of Moldova, humanitarian aid to various countries, the personality cult of Vladimir Putin, Russian military advancement and technological progress. Russian-Romanian synergies in space collaboration, belonging to the Orthodox family and a historical „alliance” between the two countries were also promoted, among others.

Structural campaigns continued with attacks towards the European Union, NATO and other key institutions (Romanian Foreign and Defense Ministries), which were targeted by critical messages and by distorting neutral news into a negative discourse. The Russian Federation also activated its propaganda network in Romania to consolidate anti-EU theses.

Current affairs were exploited in a similar virulent manner, especially on the issue of illegal logging, where older pictures and footage from other countries were shared intensively.

A peculiar change was noted when it comes to messages aimed at increasing fear and confusion. In the difficult circumstances of the social isolation of the population, messages and comments pushing for revolt, protest and disobedience to the decision of authorities were shared increasingly.

The report concluded that the promotion of pro-Russia narratives on Romanian social media used mostly articles published by Sputnik, which are then collected on networks of supporters and fake accounts and spread through Facebook groups. Russian propaganda was doubling the messages through public stances consolidating its key lines.

There is also a group of blogs and websites promoting articles in line with the theories of the Russian propaganda and targeting audiences from a commercial perspective, spreading fear- and confusion-inducing messages to the population.

The report said it was expected that messages promoting protests, revolt and disobedience continued.

Full article in Romanian here

(Edited in English by Costin Ionescu)

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