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In this file photo taken on January 21, 2020 crows fly close to a Russian flag at the top of the Russian Government building in downtown Moscow.

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

The European Union has seen a flurry of disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak spread by Russian sources over the last few weeks, a European Commission spokesman said on Tuesday.

The EU executive’s foreign policy unit had intensified its monitoring of the issue and identified, exposed and raised awareness about the role played by Russian sources, the spokesman said.

This is not the first time that Russia has been accused of using the internet to influence public opinion in the bloc.

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An EU review into elections to its parliament last year said there was evidence that both Russian and European online sources had sought to promote extreme views and polarize debate on issues such as migration and religion.

That was the latest in a string of allegations from Western governments that Russia had used online disinformation techniques, including the creation of fake social media accounts, to try to influence voters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in turn has accused foreign foes of targeting Russia by spreading fake news about the outbreak to sow panic.

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