(Reuters) -A Russian spy chief on Wednesday compared the U.S. State Department to the World War Two Nazi propaganda machine run by Joseph Goebbels, saying without providing evidence that it had launched an anti-Russia messaging campaign across social media, prompting a rebuke from Washington.
Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency (SVR), said the United States was encouraging the spreading of fake information on the popular Telegram messaging service in an attempt to “discredit” and “dehumanise Russia’s political and military leadership in the eyes of the Russian people”.
“Their actions have a lot in common with the traditions of the Third Reich’s ministry of public education and propaganda and its head Joseph Goebbels,” Naryshkin said in a statement published on the SVR website.
Naryshkin provided no evidence to support the claims of a U.S.-backed information campaign. Russia regularly accuses the West of funding and supporting anti-Kremlin movements and has labelled dozens of independent human rights groups and media outlets in Russia “foreign agents” over recent years.
“This statement is incredibly ironic considering Russia’s longstanding state-sponsored disinformation and propaganda efforts,” a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said.
Since its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russia has accelerated its campaign to quash opposition voices at home. Journalists and other individuals can be jailed for up to 15 years for publishing what Russia deems “fake news” about the military campaign.
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in what it called a “special operation” to degrade its military capabilities and root out what it calls dangerous nationalists. Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Nick Macfie, Elaine Hardcastle)