WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Polish government official says Poland has been hit by a “complex disinformation operation” that appears aimed at weakening the Polish-U.S. alliance and is consistent with previous Russian cyberattacks.
Stanislaw Zaryn, spokesman for the head of the country’s security services, said Saturday that Poland continues to investigate and has no final evidence that the attack was directed by Russia. But he said it bears all the hallmarks of a Kremlin-led campaign.
“Poland has been a target of Russian propaganda for many years,” Zaryn told The Associated Press in an emailed statement. “Lately these kinds of efforts are intensifying more and more.”
Zaryn on Twitter described a cyberattack on the website of the War Studies Institute in Warsaw, a defense academy that trains Polish military leaders. He said cyberattackers posted a fake letter in the name of the schools’ rector calling on Polish soldiers to fight the “American occupation.”
The letter’s message was amplified by being reported on news portals, including one known for pushing disinformation, he said.
“The content of the letter matched the main narratives Russian propaganda constantly pushes against Poland and the United States,” Zaryn wrote.
There was no comment from Russian officials to this incident. The Russian government in the past has adamantly denied involvement in disinformation campaigns.
Zaryn said that Polish authorities believe the purpose of the attacks is to sow information chaos, undermine the morale of Polish soldiers and stir up anti-American sentiment, among other reasons.
He alleged that the Kremlin is trying to use the coronavirus crisis to free itself from its international isolation and persuade the West to lift sanctions imposed over Russian activity in Ukraine. He said “the Kremlin tries to slander Poland” because it is “one of the hardliners” on sanctions.
U.S. soldiers were deployed to Poland and other parts of NATO’s eastern flank after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. aim was to reassure the nervous region, and the arrival of American troops was welcomed by all major political groups in Poland.