Russia is deploying coronavirus disinformation to wreak panic in the West, says an EU document

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Russian media have launched a “significant disinformation campaign” against the West to worsen the impact of the coronavirus, generate panic and wreak havoc, according to a European Union document seen by Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: fake blood is seen in test tubes labeled with coronavirus (COVID-19) in this illustration taken on March 17th 2020. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration

The Kremlin denied the allegations Wednesday, saying they were unfounded and devoid of common sense.

The EU document states that the Russian campaign, by pushing fake news online in English, Spanish, Italian, German and French, uses contradictory, confusing and harmful reports to make it more difficult for the EU to communicate its response to the pandemic.

“A significant disinformation campaign is underway by Russian state media and pro-Kremlin points about COVID-19,” said the nine-page internal document, dated March 16, using the name of the disease which may be caused by the coronavirus.

“The general goal of the Kremlin’s disinformation is to aggravate the public health crisis in western countries … in line with the Kremlin’s broader strategy of attempting to subvert European societies,” the document produced by the foreign policy arm of the EU, the European External Action Service, he said.

An EU database has recorded nearly 80 cases of misinformation about coronavirus since January 22, observing Russian efforts to amplify Iranian allegations online, cited without evidence, that coronavirus was a U.S. biological weapon.

Most scientists believe that the disease originated in bats in China before passing on to humans.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed that what he said was the lack of a specific example or link to a specific information channel in the EU document.

“We are again talking about some unfounded accusations which in the current situation are probably the result of an anti-Russian obsession,” said Peskov.

The EU document cited examples from Lithuania to Ukraine, including false claims that an American soldier deployed to Lithuania was infected and hospitalized. He said that on social media, state-funded Spanish-language Spanish RT was the twelfth most popular source of coronavirus news between January and mid-March, based on the amount of news shared on social media.

The EEAS declined to comment on the report directly.

The European Commission said it had been in contact with Google (GOOGL.O), Facebook (FB.O), Twitter (TWTR.N) and Microsoft (MSFT.O). An EU spokesman accused Moscow of “playing with people’s lives” and appealed to EU citizens to “be very careful” and use only news sources they trust.


The EU and NATO previously accused Russia of secret actions, including disinformation, to try to destabilize the West by exploiting divisions in society.

Russia denies these tactics and President Vladimir Putin accused foreign enemies of targeting Russia by spreading false news about the coronavirus to trigger panic.

Russian media in Europe have not been successful in reaching a wider audience, but they provide a platform for anti-EU populists and polarize the debate, showed analysis of EU and non-governmental groups.

The EEAS report cited uprisings in late February in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that is now seeking to join the EU and NATO, as an example of the consequences of this disinformation.

He said that a fake letter claiming to be from the Ukrainian health ministry falsely claimed that there were five coronavirus cases in the country. Ukrainian authorities say the letter was created outside of Ukraine, according to the EU report.

“The Kremlin’s disinformation messages promote a narrative that coronavirus is a human creation, armed by the West,” says the report, cited for the first time by the Financial Times.

He cited fake news created by Russia in Italy – which is experiencing the second most deadly coronavirus outbreak in the world – claiming that the EU of 27 nations has not been able to effectively deal with the pandemic, despite a series of collective measures taken by governments in the last few days.

The EEAS also shared information with Slovakia about the spread of false news that accuses the country’s prime minister, Peter Pellegrini, of being infected with the virus and who may have passed on the infection to others at recent summits.

EU leaders have conferred by videoconference since the beginning of March.

Additional reporting of Anastasia Teterevela in Moscow; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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Buttigieg will abandon the day of the race for the democratic nomination after the victory of the great Biden

SELMA, Ala. (Reuters) – Pete Buttigieg was preparing to retire from the race for Democratic presidential nomination, an aide said on Sunday, the day after moderate colleague Joe Biden won a big victory in South Carolina.

The move shocked the democratic contest to choose a candidate to hire against Republican President Donald Trump in the November elections and came two days ahead of the 14 Super Tuesday nomination contests to 14 states that will offer the biggest election prize so far.

Buttigieg, a 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who gained initial momentum after narrowly winning the Iowa caucus last month and finishing a second neighbor in New Hampshire, had sought to unite Democrats, independents and moderates Republican voters. He finished fourth in South Carolina.

His departure would leave six Democrats in the party’s presidential race, which once had more than 20 candidates. Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer dropped his offer after finishing third in South Carolina on Saturday.

Last Sunday, Democratic candidates honored the anniversary of a historic civil rights march in Alabama in 1965.

Some faithful in the African American church in Selma, Alabama, where the event was held, have turned their backs on moderate presidential contender Michael Bloomberg, who will appear for the first time on Tuesday after missing the first four competitions.

Bloomberg, a former Mayor of New York, received a cold reception at the historic AME Church of the Brown Chapel in Selma after the pastor, Reverend Leodis Strong, told the meeting that the billionaire businessman had initially rejected the invitation to speak.

“I was hurt, I was disappointed,” said Strong as Bloomberg looked at him stupidly. “I think it’s important that he came, and it shows his willingness to change.”

About 10 people in the small church with about two hundred present stood up and turned their backs on Bloomberg while talking about racial inequality.

Biden and Bloomberg are trying to present themselves as the party’s best choice to face Trump, stating that Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, is too far left to win the political election.


Black voters are a key democratic constituency and Bloomberg has been criticized for supporting the use of a police practice called stop and frisk in New York City that has encouraged police to stop and search pedestrians and has hit disproportionately black and latin.

“It’s just an insult to him to come here. It’s a lack of respect for the legacy of this place,” Lisa Brown, who went to Los Angeles from Selma, after turning her back on Bloomberg, told Reuters. He said the idea of ​​protesting against Bloomberg’s remarks had circulated, but that he was a person, not an organized group.

The silent protest suggests that Bloomberg is facing an uphill climb with some African American voters, who led Biden to a sensational victory in South Carolina.

PHOTO PHOTO: Democratic 2020 U.S. former South Bend presidential candidate, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg attends a campaign event in Raleigh, North Carolina, United States, 29 February 2020. REUTERS / Eric Thayer

Biden, who was vice president of the first American president of the United States, Barack Obama, was clearly the favorite in the Selma church. He was seated by the pastor, in front of the pews where Bloomberg sat, and received a brilliant presentation from United States representative Terri Sewell, a black Alabama legislator.

“He has earned the right to be on this pulpit and to turn to you now,” Sewell told the crowd.

Candidates were in Selma to celebrate the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” when civil rights protesters were beaten by state soldiers and local police while crossing a bridge.

Last week, Democratic Party officials voiced concern about Sanders’ early wave, worrying that his aggressive political priorities, including the creation of a government-run health system, could rule out moderate voters who were strongly needed to defend the competitive seats in Congress.

“I think the Democratic Party is looking for a Democrat – not a socialist, not a former Republican, a Democrat – to be their candidate,” Biden told Fox News Sunday.

Biden’s reference to a former Republican seems to have been addressed to Bloomberg, who has changed parties several times in his career.

Sanders attacked Biden for receiving contributions from political organizations called Super PACs and billionaires, for what he said was at the expense of the working class, the middle class and low-income people.

“I don’t go to the homes of wealthy people like Joe Biden,” Sanders said on CBS’s “Face the Nation”.

Presentation (24 pictures)

Biden slows Sanders down in fundraising and organization in Super Tuesday states and beyond.

Sanders planned to camp out Sunday in heavy democratic California, where he conducts opinion polls.

Sanders’ campaign said overnight that it raised $ 46.5 million from over 2.2 million donations in February, a huge sum that belittles what any other Democratic candidate raised last year over a period of three months.

Bloomberg continues to spend. He purchased three minutes of commercial airtime during the CBS and NBC television networks on Sunday evening to address the coronavirus epidemic.

Reporting by Joseph Ax and Trevor Hunnicutt, Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Detroit; Written by Doina Chiacu; Curated by Scott Malone, Lisa Shumaker and Peter Cooney

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Migrants flock to Greece while Turkey opens gates

KASTANIES / LESBOS, Greece (Reuters) – Hundreds of migrants crossed permeable borders from Turkey to Turkey on Sunday while thousands more gathered on the Turkish side in search of entry after Ankara relaxed the sidewalks in their movement.

Migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestinian territories arrive on a rubber dinghy near the city of Mytilene, after crossing part of the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the island of Lesvos, Greece, on March 1, 2020. REUTERS / Elias Marcou

At least 500 people had arrived by sea on three Greek islands near the Turkish coast within a few hours on Sunday morning. Seven ships reached Lesbos with over 300 on board, four arrived in Samos with 150 and two in Chios with a combined total of 70-80 people, a police official said.

On the northern mainland, the groups headed across a river to the Greek side at Kastanies. Reuters reporters saw groups of up to 30 people, including an Afghan mother with a five-day-old boy, on the side of a road, who had crossed the river hours earlier.

Turkey said on Thursday it would no longer prevent hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in its territory from reaching Europe, despite an agreement to do so reached with the EU in 2016. Its announcement triggered an almost instantaneous rush to the borders. which he shares with the member of the European Union Greece.

Turkey’s turning point came after an airstrike killed 33 Turkish soldiers in neighboring north-western Syria, where Ankara deployed forces to help protect its border against a new influx of refugees from the Syrian civil war.

Turkey said that the funds promised by the EU to help it manage 3.7 million Syrian refugees already in the country have been slow to arrive; Ankara had threatened several times in the past to open doors if it did not receive more support.

Tensions rose in Kastanies, on the mainland border of northeastern Greece with Turkey, on Saturday after riot police used tear gas to repel hundreds of migrants from the Turkish side seeking entry.

A Greek government source put the number of people gathered at the border on Sunday at 3,000, while the International Organization for Migration estimated the number at 13,000.


Some migrants threw stones and metal bars at the Greek side, as well as portable tear gas canisters, the Greek government source said. Journalists were kept one kilometer away from crossing the Greek border.

“There were 9,600 attempts to violate our borders yesterday and all have been successfully addressed,” Deputy Defense Minister Alkiviadis Stefanis told Greek television Skai.

Greece claimed that there was an orchestrated attempt on its borders and accused Turkey of actively guiding migrants.

“Not only are they not stopping them, but they are helping them,” Stefanis told Skai.

The European Union has claimed to support Greece and its neighboring Bulgaria, which also has a border with Turkey, to protect the external borders of the blockade of 27 nations.

He also expressed condolences to Turkey over the deadly airstrike and said he was ready to step up humanitarian support.

So far no migrants had attempted to enter Bulgaria from Turkey, but tensions were intensifying at the Turkish-Greek crossings “very close” to Bulgarian territory, so Sofia had strengthened her border patrols against any illegal entry, said the minister of the Defense Krasimir Karakachanov Radio.

Greece was the main gateway for hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers to Europe in 2015 and 2016. There are already more than 40,000 migrants on the Aegean islands, living in severely overcrowded fields and in dirty conditions.

Riots broke out in Lesbos last week between riot police and locals protesting a plan to set up closed detention centers to house the migrant population. Locals say the islands are suffering from a disproportionate burden.

Greece has promised to prevent another massive influx of migrants. “This country is not for everyone,” Migration Minister Notis Mittarachi told Greece’s Ant1 TV.

Reuters witnesses saw small groups of people making their way through the fields outside the Greek city of Orestiada, near the mainland border, over the weekend. Four young Afghans, exhausted, sat around a small bonfire.

Presentation (16 images)

Later, 26-year-old Najibe Rezayi, also from Afghanistan, carried her seven-month-old daughter in her arms. “We want a place to stay, food, warmth,” he said through an interpreter as they walked through the fog in frost-covered fields.

Greek police and the army have arrested people attempting to cross the country. “They are all Afghans, not Syrians,” said an army officer. “Are these the Syrians (Turkish president Tayyip) Erdogan was talking about?”

Alkis Konstantinidis’ report on Lesbos, Lefteris Papadimas in Kastanies, Renee Maltezou in Athens; Ali Kucukgocmen in Turkey and Tsvetelia Tsolova in Bulgaria; Written by Michele Kambas; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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The U.S. appeals court freezes Trump’s policy which forces migrants to wait in Mexico

(Reuters) – A U.S. federal appeals court in San Francisco on Friday blocked a Trump administration policy that forced tens of thousands of migrants to wait months in Mexico for hearings in U.S. immigration courts.

Three judges on the U.S. Circuit’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stated that the policy was in conflict with the text and congressional purpose of U.S. immigration laws.

The program, which started a year ago and is called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), is one of the most dramatic changes in immigration policy implemented by the Trump administration.

The United States Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it is likely that the administration could quickly appeal to the United States Supreme Court’s decision as it has done with other judgments.

About 59,000 people were sent back to Mexico under the program, which started in San Diego before being extended to other ports of entry across the U.S.-Mexico border. [L2N25W1G1]

Migrants, many of them children, faced violence and homelessness while waiting for the dates of their courts in dangerous border towns. At least 343 people under the program have been violently attacked or threatened in Mexico, according to a Human Rights Watch report on October 1 documenting kidnappings, rape and assault.

Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York; Additional reports from Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller

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Turkey opens the border for Syrian refugees to enter Europe after the strike killed the troops

ANKARA / ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey will no longer prevent Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, a senior Turkish official said, while Ankara responded Friday to the assassination of 33 Turkish soldiers in a strike by Syrian government forces in the region of Northwest Idlib of Syria.

Displaced Syrians are seen in an IDP camp located in Idlib, Syria on February 27, 2020. REUTERS / Umit Bektas

The opening of the border could trigger a repetition of the migration crisis of 2015-2016, when over a million people arrived by sea in Greece and crossed the Balkans on foot, until Turkey closed its border in an agreement with the EU.

In the early hours of Friday, refugees and migrants were already heading for border posts. The official said police and border guards were told to withdraw and allow both land and sea exit.

A column of migrants walked to the border on foot in the early morning light, with a man carrying a baby in his arms. Others headed for taxis.

“We heard about it on television,” said 16-year-old Afghan migrant Sahin Nebizade in a group crammed into one of three taxis parked on a highway on the outskirts of Istanbul.

“We lived in Istanbul. We want to go to Edirne and then to Greece,” Nebizade said before taxis headed for the northwestern province of Edirne and crossed the border into Bulgaria and Greece, 200 km (124 miles) away. west of Istanbul.

A million civilians have been displaced since December in Syria near the Turkish border in desperate winter conditions, perhaps the worst humanitarian crisis of the nine-year war. Turkey already hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees and says it cannot do more.

Syrian government forces, supported by the Russian Air Force, launched an assault to capture the Northwest, the last remaining territory held by rebels who are supported by Turkey. With sponsored diplomacy from Ankara and Moscow in tatters, NATO member Turkey has moved closer than ever to the conflict to direct confrontation with Russia on the battlefield.

Ankara’s fury over Thursday’s attack – the deadliest suffered by the Turkish army in nearly 30 years – raised the prospect that President Tayyip Erdogan will launch a large-scale operation against the Russian-backed Syrian army.

Russia said Erdogan discussed the crisis over the phone on Friday with President Vladimir Putin.

“We have decided, effectively immediately, not to prevent Syrian refugees from reaching Europe by land or sea,” said the official, who requested anonymity. “Now all refugees, including Syrians, are invited to join the European Union.”


The Syrian civil war has worsened dramatically in recent months, despite having largely vanished from the agenda of Western countries. Since 2016, Europe has relied on Turkey to stop the flow of refugees and for several years the West has left the responsibility for diplomacy in the hands of Moscow and Ankara.

Any mass movement of people in Europe would create a new crisis for the EU, whose leaders have contemplated restrictions on internal borders and public meetings to deal with the outbreak of the coronavirus. Greek government sources said that land and sea borders with Turkey are narrowing.

Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to open doors to migrants to travel to Europe, reversing Turkey’s commitment to the EU in 2016.

The United Nations and others have called for an immediate ceasefire, but three rounds of talks between Ankara and Moscow have failed to reach an agreement and fighting has continued.

Turkey has sent thousands of troops and heavy military armaments to Idlib in recent weeks, and Erdogan warned that Turkey would repel President Bashar al-Assad’s forces unless they withdrew from Turkish observation posts in the region.


Thursday’s airstrike raised Turkey’s military death toll to 54 in Idlib in February. The governor in Turkey’s border province said 32 other troops were injured. It was the worst loss suffered by the Turkish army after a 1993 attack by Kurdish separatist guerrillas.

Turkish defense minister Hulusi Akar said the attack took place despite coordination with Russian officials on the ground and continued even after the alarm was raised following the first attack.

Turkey’s director of communications, Fahrettin Altun, said that in retaliation, “all known” targets of the Syrian government were shot by Turkish air and ground support units.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense said that Turkish troops affected by the bombing should not have been in that area and Ankara had not informed Moscow in advance of their position. An elderly Russian legislator said that any large-scale Turkish military operation in Idlib would end badly for Ankara.

Presentation (13 images)

In the midst of the growing crisis on Syria, the Turkish lira dropped to a 17-month low and its main stock index plunged 10% on Friday at the start, although authorities banned short selling on all Turkish stocks.

The State Department said the United States is very concerned about the reported attack on the Turkish soldiers and is stopping by “our NATO ally Turkey”.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed “serious concern” over the escalation to Idlib.

Further reports from Ali Kucukgocmen, Can Sezer and Ceyda Caglayan in Istanbul and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Written by Jonathan Spicer, Daren Butler and Peter Graff, edited by Robert Birsel, Simon Cameron-Moore and Timothy Heritage

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What are the “sanctuary” cities and why is Trump targeting them?

LOS ANGELES / WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US Republican President Donald Trump has stepped up his administration’s struggle in recent weeks against the democratically-led “sanctuary” jurisdictions that restrict cooperation with the federal application of immigration.

FILE PHOTO: inmates sit on their bunks in a housing unit during a multimedia tour at the Northwest ICE Processing Center, one of 31 dedicated ICE facilities hosting immigrant detainees, in Tacoma, Washington, USA, December 16, 2019. REUTERS / Lindsey Wasson / Photo file

The struggle to determine whether states and localities should participate in Trump’s immigration crackdown comes as the president faces re-election in November and has put the issue at the heart of his 2020 campaign.

Trump is now opening new fronts in the battle against cities, filing lawsuits and quoting quotes in what Attorney General William Barr has called part of a “significant escalation” in the fight against uncooperative jurisdictions.


The “sanctuary” movement dates back to the 1980s, when US churches sheltered Central American migrants who had fled civil conflict in the region and feared deportation.

The label is now generally applied to states and localities that have laws, policies or regulations that make it more difficult for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to track down and arrest immigrants they deem deportable. However, there is no official definition of a “sanctuary” and levels of cooperation vary from place to place.

One of the highest-profile “sanctuary” policies is opposition to the prolonged detention of suspected violators of the immigration law in state or local custody.

The ICE may request that such suspects be held for up to 48 hours beyond their release time, which allows ICE officers to hold the person in custody. Such requests are known as “inmates”.

Ten states have taken measures that limit compliance with requests for detainees, deny ICE access to prisons or limit communication with ICE, according to a list compiled by the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that supports lower levels of immigration. More than 150 counties and cities have their “sanctuary” measures, according to the group.

Some officials from non-cooperative jurisdictions claim that requests are voluntary and honoring them could mean holding people back for no constitutionally valid reason.


Federal immigration officers still operate in “shrine” jurisdictions, but with less assistance from local law enforcement.

Non-cooperative jurisdictions send fingerprints of anyone who has been booked in prison or in prison to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which sends them to ICE for an immigration status check, according to an ICE spokesperson.

The ICE says that not knowing the release date of a suspected immigration violator can make it more difficult to arrest and deport that person and endanger officers. The agency also claims that it should be allowed to enter prisons to collect suspects in a safe environment.

Some states and locations generally reject ICE detention requests, but honor them in cases where the person has been charged or convicted of a serious crime. Other jurisdictions will not honor detainees under any circumstances, the ICE spokesman said.


Some police chiefs fear that if viewed as an arm of federal immigration enforcement, immigrants living illegally in the country may be less likely to come forward as victims or witnesses of crime.

For others, there are concerns about the stress of local resources or their legal liability, as some courts have ruled for prolonged detention due to ICE requests.

While Trump and his senior officials often highlight cases of violence committed by immigrants, studies have shown that immigrants do not commit crimes at a higher rate than Native Americans.

A 2016 analysis conducted by a sociology professor at the State University of New York in Buffalo examined the relationship between immigration and crime in U.S. metropolitan areas. The researchers found “clear and global” evidence that increased immigration did not lead to higher crime levels.


Trump criticized the “sanctuaries” during his 2016 campaign and gave speeches flanked by relatives of people killed by suspected immigration law violators, referred to by supporters as “families of angels”.

The president revisited that message for his reelection offer. One of Trump’s guests at his State of the Union speech on February 4 was Jody Jones, whose brother was killed by a twice deported immigrant who had not been transferred to ICE after being arrested for the sixth time in 2018, according to the White House.

The Trump administration has tried to forcefully arm the jurisdictions into “compliance”, but has had little success.

Shortly after taking office in 2017, Trump issued an executive order that sought to retain funds from the sanctuary cities, but those efforts were largely frozen by the courts.

Last year, Trump proposed sending “an unlimited supply” of immigrants who are fighting deportation to the sanctuary cities, but the idea never materialized.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said earlier this month that members of a highly qualified tactical unit would be deployed to increase the arrests of unauthorized immigrants in San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark, New Jersey, a move that has outraged Democrats and immigrant supporters.

Reporting by Kristina Cooke and Ted Hesson; Editing by Mica Rosenberg and Alistair Bell

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Trump says stock markets will crash if he loses the election

United States President Donald Trump inspects the guards of honor during the ceremonial reception in the forecourt of the Indian presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, India on February 25, 2020. REUTERS / Al Drago

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – United States President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the U.S. stock market will collapse if it loses the election this year.

During a trip to India, Trump said entrepreneurs’ headlines will jump higher if he is re-elected, but “if I don’t win you will see an accident like you’ve never seen before.”

He said his administration planned to announce tax cuts for the middle class in the not too distant future.

Trump also said Monday’s sharp drop in share prices was negative due to fears of the coronavirus, but the United States was in good shape to deal with the problem.

He said Chinese President Xi Jinping was working hard on the matter. “And I think it will be under control … I think it will work well. We hope so, ”said Trump.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Written by Sanjeev Miglani

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