*Nicolae Țîbrigan


In the previous article I presented how in the Romanian press there was an attempt to spread disinformation and the exploitation of the myth reffering to the “conspiracy of the African Swine flew” in the most insidious way, using blogs, marginal websites and even through some newspapers with controversial editorial politics. This campaign’s stake consists in undermining the strategic partnership between Romania and the US, by inoculating into people’s minds a distrust in national authorities. In this sense, using conspiracy theories represents Kremlin’s old tactic of manipulation and disinformation dating back to the Soviet period.

The “Romanian” Network of the pro-Kremlin propaganda

With a quick search on Google.ro and Bing.com com by key word [CIA swine flu virus] we can identify a whole “Romanian” network that spreads Kremlin’s lies about the American “laboratories” (owned by either the Pentagon or the CIA, neither the propagandists haven’t decided yet).

This time, “patient zero” is veteran Antal Boncoi from Tulcea who published an article on the African Swine Flu” (ASF) on the online newspaper “Tulcea noastră”. The news is published online on the 6th of July 2018. Boncoi considers that the ASF was used as a “biological weapon” in Cuba in the 70s. Similar like in many situations Kremlin’s propaganda is repeated like the case with “CIA placed the virus in a container” on a ship in Panama.. The disinformation story is distributed on social media by 1.9 thousand times, becoming a viral news on Facebook.


Print screen made from the article signed by Antal Boncoi (Facebook photo) and published on www.tulceanoastra.ro

Source Tulcea noastră Newspaper

 I have searched for more information about the “disaster” caused by the ASF on the biggest Caribbean island and discovered that the disinformation narration was launched by a south American newspaper paid by the KGB since 1975, referring to a series of investigations undergone in the 70s by the Church Commission in the American Senate. Obviously, the South American “press” made use of presumptions, because in the final report of the Church commission published in six volumes in 1976 did not mention anywhere the ASF. In fact, there wasn’t any CIA container, but in fact the ASF reached the island as result of fresh meat and biltong from Europe, especially from Spain, where the disease made many victims starting with the year 1960..

Of course, the pest or the “African swine flu” was eradicated in Cuba after the Castro regime took drastic measures by sacrificing 400 000 pigs. The flu shows signs again in 1980 and again it was eradicated.

The “laboratory” story and the ASF virus created by the CIA is reused on 30th August 2018 by Evenimentul newspaper through the article “The link between CIA and the African swine flu. Planned Disaster. Russia’s role. BREAKING NEWS” signed by Anca Andrei, followed by a massive share and fast re-usage of the news by many marginal websites, similar with a ping pong game. The narration refers to an article published by the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper in 1977, available here. In the same article we will find out that the author quotes the newspaper Newsday, but the EVZ.ro author does not see this small detail and uses the primary source for disinformation “the American publication Newsday”. The website is no longer available and to whom would be of use a 40-year-old “news” to explain a recent event? Couldn’t it be Kremlin?

Even the disinformation spreading structure with “CIA” and ASF in the Romanian informational space followed this scheme:


From this graphic we can see how the “American laboratories hypothesis” is distributed heavily on various websites in just a few days, adding to these obscure websites with orthodox, anti-Semitic and nationalist-conservative themes, such as OrtodoxINFO.ro orCuvântul Ortodox. Just a simple glance at these two websites one can realize that he/she is dealing with conspiracy theories, fake news, outrageous latest news: starting with the founding of “the Anti-Semitic Commissariat in Germany”, legalizing bestiality in Romania to praizing Putin and his wars in Ukraine and Syria.


Collage with disinformation articles from OrtodoxINFO and Cuvantul Ortodox

Surse: ortodoxinfo.ro / www.cuvantul-ortodox.ro

 Some factual information

These disinformation narrations are not based on any kind of factual data, which could be linked to reality. The ASF cases in Romania are under serious surveillance by AThe National Sanitary Veterinary and Food Safety Authority. According toto the latest issued statement issued statement by ANSVSA on 27th September in Romania, the virus was detected in 233 municipalities in 13 counties across the country, with 952 outbreaks (6.3% of the total of municipalities from Romania). In order to stop the virus from spreading, until now 323 754 infected pigs have been sacrificed (7.89% from the total of 4.1 million ear-tagged pigs in Romania). Many small households were left without animals and many were left jobless after many farms were closed. . The most affected county continues to be Tulcea, with 42% of its municipalities affected by ASF; în timp ce while in Satu Mare 5 outbreaks of the disease have been eliminated, without new ones being observed..

Still, investigation journalists Mirela Neag and Cătălin Tolontan underline in an article available on TOLO.ROthat 75% of Romania if affected and has restrictions for selling swine meat. According to the investigation, experts from the ex-veterinary Sanepid say that the spread across the country is “a matter of when not if” and that the authorities are overwhelmed by the situation and are trying tominimize the real number of ASF outbreaks in Romania. Farmers blame the authorities for not taking preemptive measures for ASF and disinfection is just for cutting corners.


ANSVSA poster about banning swine meat imports in Romania from Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova


ASF, was first reported in Kenia and known at first as the Montgomery Disease , after the name of the person who first identified it in 1909. The Latin name is Pestis Africana Suum translated in various languages: Peste Porcine Africaine (French), Africanische Schweinepest (German) and Pesta Porcină Africană (Romanian).

ASF is an infectious viral disease usually found among domestic and wild swine of any age, highly contagious and very dangerous – probably the most contagious and most dangerous among swine populations, in new outbreaks raising mortality rates up to 100%.

The virus resists a few months’ in the environment and in corpses, being able to spread: when sick pigs come in contact with healthy ones, through contaminated food and when people come in contact with contaminated wild boars through cloths and equipment.

Also, it is important to mention is that the ASF does not affect people, there isn’t the slightest risk for people to get sick, however this virus has an impact on a social scale from an economic point of view.

ASF appeared unexpectedly in 2007, after a long period, in Georgia where it rapidly spread, outbreaks being discovered in 56 out of 61 of the country’s districts. The virus continued to spread in Russia and in other countries. In 2018 the disease was localized in almost all countries in Eastern Europe, including Romania, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Kaliningrad region (Russian Federation).

“It’s the Americans fault”

 Pro-Kremlin propaganda started skirting the issue regarding ASF that it was developed in a laboratory (obviously American) and that it is about the famous Fort Detrick. On the one hand, being about Pentagon’s military base, and about viruses that have unidentified origins, and on the other disinformation designers have nothing more to do than to build false narratives, giving for debate conspiracy theories. All of these are spread with the help of zealous propagandists and “useful idiots” on Facebook:


Collage with the “Romanian Network” for distributing disinformation about the “CIA laboratories” and ASF.


It is precisely what Sputnik.md “strategists” in Romania are trying to do, using the lies made by “fake expert” Hrolenko for convincing us that the US is testing “biological weapons” in Eastern Europe and thus preparing for the “Third Biologic World War”. The articles on Sputnik underlines that the Pentagon could control (from distance?) the ASF outbreaks in Ukraine, R. Moldova and even Romania through the so-called “laboratory networks”.

Using conspiracy theories by the Kremlin represents an old tactic of manipulation and disinformation even since the Soviet period. A similar conspiracy hypothesis about the ASF spread was distributed through the international press back in the ‘70s in the previous century՚70 ai secolului trecut. The Soviet propaganda sneaked the story about the CIA that brought the ASF in Cuba with the purpose to undermine the Cuban economy and to weaken Fidel Castro’s regime (see the materialul anterior).Presently, Kremlin’s strategists use the same theories of conspiracies for ASF, with a slight change: for adapting them to the new geopolitical realities in the field, the ASF outbreak is no longer the CIA’s fault, but the Pentagon’s..

During the Cold War, in the ‘50s, another rumor started in the Soviet media and in the Democratic Republic of Germany that claimed the Colorado cockroaches had been smuggled in the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc by the USA to destroy the potato plantations and to sabotage the food industry in member-countries belonging to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance.The disinformation campaign was continued by the official press, reaching a certain point where the American Ambassador sent a note of protest to Moscow, even though the Colorado cockroach outbreak started in 1855 in North America, reached the European continent in 1876-1877, when Lenin was only 7 and was not thinking about the Soviet Union (which was created in 1922). So, “the American cockroach” could not be used as a “biological weapon” by the American administration back then.


The Soviet propaganda caricature signed by Boris Efimov, illustrating the “White House” where two “Cockroaches – Colorado and American” make a deal on the background of a European map.

Sursa: propagandahistory.ru

 Another “story for putting kids to sleep” which caught the attention for all conspiracy theorists, was that the USA was accused for creating in laboratories the HIV/AIDS virus. The operation “INFEKTION” was launched through a pro-Soviet newspaper from India “Patriot”, launched by the KGB in 1962 for spreading disinformation, which lasted three years (1983-1985). Soviet strategists launched the idea that the HIV/AIDS virus was the “product of an American biological warfare laboratory” located … at none other than Fort Detrick, Maryland! Coincidență?! Coincidence! I don’t think so.

Of course, the short and medium term was to encourage anti-American attitudes among the populations in various countries (with strategic potential that could be part of the pro-Soviet side), but it also fitted perfectly with the Soviet’s intention to distract the global public opinion (“maskirovka”) from the assassination attempt of the Pope, where the rumors said the KGB was directly involved. The disinformation was reused by the local press, like “Literaturnaya Gazeta” and “Pravda”, with a caricature where a doctor offers a general a shot of HIV in exchange for a load of money and around them there are a lot of dead people’s legs (Vladimir Volkoff, “A Treatise on Disinformation. From the Trojan Horse to the Internet”, Bucharest, Antet, 2009, p.105). Interesting is that the HIV virus was represented graphically through Soviet propaganda through Nazi swastikas.


Public caricature in “Pravda” newspaper published on the 31st of October 1986 representing the hypothesis that the HIV virus was created in a “Pentagon laboratory”. Nazi swastikas were censored for ethical reasons.

Source: vk.com/detivich

The same disinformation framework was also found in the H5N1 (avian flu) virus case, a anthrax, and even the Zika virus, the last being used as a propagandistic instrument by the Russian Federation’s famous sanitary chief veterinary inspector Ghenadii Onishchenko on Russian BBC. He claimed that unspecified Russian scientists would have identified the virus since 2012 in mosquitoes in the Georgian breakaway region of Abhazia, presently under Russian control, integrated and militarized in the Russian security structure: “This thing, worried us because the mosquito lives at 100 km from a microbiologic laboratory owned by the US Army”. In fact, it is a control point laboratory for epidemic diseases built in 2011 by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency – DTRA and included in the Georgian National Center for Infectious Disease Control.


Print Screen of Onichchencko’s declaration: “Americans can infect mosquitoes with the Zika virus”

Source: BBC News

 In fact, the Zika virus had spread exponentially in South America, with no cases reported in the rest of the world, even less in 2012 and especially in the Black Sea (Iulian Chifu, Oazu Nantoi coord. „Război informațional: tipizarea agresiunii informaționale a Federației Ruse”, București, Editura Institutului de Științe Politice și Relații Internaționale „Ion I.C. Brătianu”, 2016, pp. 63-64).

Why does the Kremlin use the “recycling” disinformation narrations tactic? It can also be explained in reference to thepresidential decree from 31 December 2015 about the Russian Federation’s National Security Strategy where at paragraph 4 “a chain of US biological laboratories placed in Russia’s neighboring countries” – a reference that indicates a continuation and development for the future of the propaganda model.

Some concluding remarks

Contemporary psychologists have reached the conclusion that even the most rational people, with a well-developed critical sense, can fall into hands of conspiracy theories, reacting to the psychological discomfort due to uncertainty and helplessness feelings to adapt to the modern world.

Conspiracy theories about life’s threats or the human existence in general, such as infectious diseases and viruses are efficient in cultivating dissatisfaction, distrust, confusion and even fear..

Usingtehnica „hoțul strigă hoțul” („wolf cries wolf” – eng.) , mass media controlled by the Kremlin are blaming the Americans for practices with which the Russian secret services are familiar for a very long time.

Thus, Kremlin’s statements about the coordinated ASF spread by the CIA or the Pentagon as a “biological weapon” against Russia, distract the public attention from the fact that Russian spies have used radioactive weapons and neurotoxins for killing ex-agents Aleksandr Litvinenko (poisoned with radioactive polonium) and Serghei Skripal (poisoned with Novichok – a dangerous neurotoxin –).

Pro-Kremlin’s propaganda megaphone in Romania will continue to poison the public discourse with conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns,, followed by false narrations about ASF periodically recycled in accordance with how the situation evolves and the present public agenda.

As evidence, in the course of one week, propaganda website Sputnik.md has continued to publish six more disinformation articles about ASF about the “swine fever in Romania” case. So, the “PEST” operation continues.


*Nicolae Țîbrigan has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Bucharest and also finished Security Studies Masters Programme at the same university. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Doctoral School of Sociology. Since 2013 he is a research assistant at the Institute of political Sciences and International Relations “Ion I.C. Brătianu” of the Romanian Academy.