- The Washington Times - Friday, March 6, 2020

Russia is responsible for spreading online disinformation involving the potentially deadly coronavirus, a top U.S. State Department official testified Thursday on Capitol Hill.

Lea Gabrielle, the head of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, laid blame on the former Cold War foe while appearing before a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee.

“Unfortunately, we have been able to assess that accounts tied to Russia, the entire ecosystem of Russian disinformation, has been engaged in the midst of this world health crisis,” said Ms. Gabrielle, a former Navy intelligence officer-turned-Fox News reporter tapped last year by the Trump administration to lead the State Department’s counter-propaganda center.

“We saw the entire ecosystem of Russian disinformation at play,” Ms. Gabrielle reiterated. “Russian state proxy websites, official state media, as well as swarms of online, false personas pushing out false narratives.”

Ms. Gabrielle’s appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on State Department and USAID Management, International Operations, and Bilateral International Development occurred as the total number of international confirmed cases of the coronavirus neared 100,000, according to statistics maintained by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins University.



More than 200 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the U.S. since the disease was discovered in December, including 14 instances and counting in which patients died after contracting the disease. Ten confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been documented in Russia, state-run media reported Friday.

Speaking about the outbreak earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that fake reports about the coronavirus were being circulated from abroad.

“The purpose of such fakes is clear: to sow panic among the population,” Mr. Putin said Wednesday.

Ms. Gabrielle accused Moscow the next day of similar conduct.

“The Kremlin’s goal is to separate and divide us. It’s classic subversion. So the more we can all work together — bipartisan, nonpartisan — working together at countering propaganda and disinformation, the better we will be as a country,” Ms. Gabrielle testified.

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