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Spain concerned over Russian social media activity on Catalonia

© AFP/File | Spanish Minister of Defence Maria Dolores de Cospedal said authorities had not established whether the Russian government was behind alleged social media intervention in the Catalan crisis

MADRID (AFP) - 

Spain said Friday it had noted news manipulation about the Catalan crisis on social media originating "from Russian territory," adding the issue would be raised at an upcoming EU ministers meeting.

Spanish media have already accused Moscow-backed outlets such as Russia Today and Sputnik -- which have Spanish language services -- of playing a destabilising role in the crisis triggered by Catalonia's banned October 1 independence referendum.

Defence Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal told reporters the government had established that "many messages and interventions via social networks come from Russian territory."

But she insisted that authorities had not established whether the Russian government was behind them or not.

Cospedal was responding to a journalist who asked about "Russia's interference in preparing messages that could alter the internal workings of some countries," pointing specifically to the Catalan crisis in Spain.

She did not give specific examples of the types of messages that had been identified.

The El Pais daily wrote an editorial Friday denouncing "the intense campaign by Russian media that are close to the Kremlin," whose "propaganda machine" it accused of siding with the pro-independence movement.

Earlier Friday Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said there was evidence of activity by "Russian networks, hackers."

"They're not exclusively aimed against Spain, but it's a manner of destabilising the EU," he told Spanish radio.

Spain's government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo, meanwhile, said disinformation on social networks was a "serious issue."

"The foreign minister will raise this issue which Europe must take very seriously," he added, pointing out that strategic communications and the fight against disinformation were on the agenda at an EU foreign ministers meeting on Monday in Brussels.

On Thursday, US General Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of NATO forces in Europe, demanded Russia "stop meddling" in European elections amid concern over Kremlin interference in the Catalan crisis.

Moscow is also suspected of interfering in last year's US presidential election and Britain's Brexit vote, and Scaparrotti said he was concerned by "Russian malign influence" in other countries.

© 2017 AFP