"We won't bomb Barcelona or Madrid. We won't bomb any city", has joked the deputy director of the Department of European Cooperation of the Russian Foreign ministry, Igor Kapyrin, during an event organised by the Friends of Europe think tank.
The comments came after being asked about some of the cases of disinformation uncovered by the East Stratcom Task Force of the European External Action Service.
The group, which started to detect propaganda articles about Catalonia before the 1st October independence referendum, reported comments on channel Russia 1 saying that "the logical response by Europe to the referendum in Catalonia would have been to recognise the independence of Catalonia and bomb Madrid".
East Stratcom Task Force also detected earlier biased reports, for example on the website Vesti.ru, which said that "Spanish is taught as a foreign language in Catalan schools". Similarly on Izvestia.ru, which on 28th September, claimed that "Catalonia will recognise Crimea as part of Russia" and another, on 21st September, on Sputnik, saying that "the Balearic Islands will also ask for independence from Spain".
Kapyrin described the group's work as "brainwashing" which, in his opinion, "goes against the principles of free choice of information". "Who is the judge of what is false or not?" he asked defiantly.
Interference in Catalonia discounted
Kapyrin rejected any suggestion the Russian government had interfered in the Catalan independence process, describing it as a "conspiracy theory" and urging western countries to presents "evidence" of Russian cyberattacks. He also offered to carry out joint investigations into the source of any such attacks.
"I don't believe in this type of conspiracy theory unless Russia is responsible for everything that happens in the world, not just in Europe", he said, when asked about the alleged interference via false stories and bots in the Catalan independence process.
In statements to news agency Europa Press, after the event, the Russian official criticised that "some journalists and politicians are trying to blame Russia for everything that happens" in trying to implicate them in efforts to destabilise Spain via Catalonia.
Finally, Kapyrin made it clear that the Russian government condemns the cyberattacks and calls for "proof" from the countries accusing them of being behind them. "We're always proposing that they give us concrete elements to investigate or investigate together", he said, "give us evidence of these attacks and let's discuss them in the UN."