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Russia Exposed for Spreading Disinformation in Africa, Targeting U.S Health Initiatives

By Office of the Spokesperson
February 12, 2024

The U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center has revealed Russia’s intelligence services’ involvement in a disinformation campaign aimed at Africa. The campaign, led by the newly formed information agency “African Initiative,” focuses on Africa-Russia relations and aims to spread false information about the United States and European countries, according to the US statement.

The disinformation campaign orchestrated by the Kremlin includes recruiting African journalists, bloggers, and members of local communities to support and amplify African Initiative’s efforts. One of their primary objectives is to undermine U.S. and Western health initiatives in Africa by spreading dangerous health-related disinformation.

The initial phase of the campaign involves spreading false information about an outbreak of a mosquito-borne viral disease in Africa. From there, conspiracies will be disseminated regarding Western pharmaceutical corporations, health-focused philanthropic efforts, and the spread of disease in West and East Africa.

Artem Sergeyevich Kureyev, the Chief Editor of African Initiative, is also the General Director of Initsiativa-23, a Moscow-based organization. Some members of African Initiative were recruited from the disintegrating enterprises of the late Yevgeniy Prigozhin. The organization currently operates local offices in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and Bamako, Mali, and is actively hosting events on the ground.

To launder their disinformation and propaganda, African Initiative heavily relies on various social media accounts, both branded and unbranded. Two prominent accounts used are “African Initiative” and “African Kalashnikov.” The organization also utilizes its website afrinz.ru, VKontakte, and other platforms, often amplified by pro-Russian accounts. The popular Telegram channel “Smile and Wave” frequently amplifies African Initiative’s content.

Foreign information manipulation poses a significant threat worldwide, as authoritarian actors like the Russian government exploit it to exacerbate social divisions, skew national discourse, and disrupt informed decision-making. By supporting this disinformation network, Russia actively harms the countries it targets and the entire African continent.

This revelation comes shortly after the U.S. State Department’s Global Engagement Center exposed the Kremlin’s covert dissemination of disinformation in Latin America to undermine global support for Ukraine. The tactic involved laundering Moscow-produced content through local individuals and groups, making pro-Kremlin disinformation appear organic. Now, the Russian government is attempting a similar strategy in Africa with new actors and entities.

While foreign information manipulation is a dangerous and destabilizing tactic, it becomes especially damaging when targeting health information. The U.S. State Department urges an immediate end to this Kremlin disinformation campaign to prevent a greater risk to health security in Africa.

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