According to Tatiana Stanovaya, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center, holding the vote is the Kremlin’s main priority, and efforts to control information fit into that broader goal.
“If you describe the situation as well-managed, saying everything is under control and there is no big risk to the national vote, then you can still hold it,” she said. “But if you lose control of the information space, if you let panic unfold and people become anxious, you won’t be able to hold the vote in such circumstances.”
The Russian authorities have themselves stood accused of sowing disinformation abroad about the coronavirus. Excerpts of an internal EU document leaked to the press on March 16 said that pro-Kremlin media outlets were actively spreading disinformation about the pandemic in a bid to “undermine public trust” in Western countries.