MOSCOW — After a Russian military contingent with medical equipment arrived in Rome last month, the Kremlin’s English-language media outlets RT and Sputnik found video gold.They highlighted an Italian man replacing an E.U. flag with a Russian one — deriding how Italy’s European partners “failed” to provide assistance to the coronavirus-stricken country while Russia “filled in.”But when questions were raised about Russia’s aid, the state-funded outlets went on the defensive.Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that roughly 80 percent of the supplies were “useless,” citing high-level political sources. RT called the story “ingratitude” and “ripping a page straight out of the U.S. media’s ‘Russiagate’ playbook.”Another RT headline read, “How disinformation really works: Activists linked to pro-NATO think tank smear Russian covid-19 aid to Italy.”As the novel coronavirus pandemic has forced people across the globe to stay inside — and spend more time scanning the news — state-sponsored media outlets have tried to spin it to their advantage, according to an Oxford Internet Institute report.The study — which analyzed coronavirus-related news from state-backed English-language media in Russia, China, Iran and Turkey — found some common themes that have the potential to cloud and complicate global efforts to tackle the pandemic.Among them: portraying responses


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