By Simon Lewis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States believes Russia will conduct "information operations" aimed at turning opinion in Europe against Ukraine as countries across the continent go to the polls this year, the head of the State Department's office for disinformation said on Thursday.
Dozens of countries worldwide will elect new leaders in 2024, including votes in Britain, Austria and Georgia, as well as European parliament elections in June.
Jamie Rubin, special envoy and coordinator for the Global Engagement Center (GEC), told reporters that U.S. adversary Russia, as well as China, was working around the world to pass off state propaganda as independent journalism by hiding its true source.
Rubin did not cite specific countries where he has concerns, but said the main threats this year were in Europe, which initially united in opposition to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and has provided Ukraine with military and other aid.
"Russia is hoping that the number of elections in Europe this year could change what has been a remarkable coalition and disciplined opposition to its war," said Rubin.
"We do believe that the Russians will conduct information operations throughout Europe to try to change opinion on Ukraine during this election season," he added.
The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The GEC, which is tasked with exposing foreign disinformation campaigns, last year said it had discovered a Russian-financed effort across Latin America to feed propaganda and disinformation to local news outlets.
Russia at the time called the allegations unfounded.
A declassified intelligence assessment, sent to more than 100 governments last year, also said Moscow is using spies, social media and Russian state-run media to erode public faith in the integrity of democratic elections.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Bill Berkrot)