UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, MP.

Coronavirus: Defence Secretary Accuses Russia Of Trying To Exploit Crisis

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, MP.

The Defence Secretary has warned Russia and China may be seeking to exploit the COVID-19 outbreak to further their own agenda.

Ben Wallace said Moscow was continuing to mount naval exercises and pursue a campaign of “misinformation”.

He added that China is charging high prices for personal protective equipment (PPE) exports during the pandemic.

In evidence to the Commons Defence Committee, the former Army officer said there are strong indications that several countries are aiming to benefit from the crisis.

“Some are using it to exploit division or economic uncertainty and some are doing it to further their own economic or security agendas," Mr Wallace said.

“We are certainly seeing information which shows that people are trying to exaggerate our weakness in order to damage us.

“Certainly our adversaries haven’t let up. Russia is continually engaging in misinformation.”

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has already sent a team to the Cabinet Office to help stop the spread of online misinformation about COVID-19, after a wave of fake news circulated through messaging platforms like WhatsApp.

Russia's state-run news agency RIA-Novosti was outed for false reporting of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's health after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

A military parade in Red Square, Moscow. (Picture: Russian MOD).
A military parade in Red Square, Moscow. (Picture: Russian MOD).

Mr Wallace said both Russia and China were continuing with what he called their “day job”, accusing the latter of charging heavy prices for emergency PPE for frontline NHS workers.

“I haven’t seen China or anybody else using this crisis to prevent us getting access.

"But of course we are buying it. We are spending an awful lot of money buying it,” he said.

Standing in for Mr Johnson at Prime Minister's Questions, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab declined to commit to a public inquiry into Britain’s handling of the crisis.

Having backed calls for an international investigation into the cause of the virus, Mr Wallace accepted the Government would have to be open with the public.

“This is more than a once-in-a-generation event," he said.

"It is important for whatever governments we are in to learn lessons and indeed for the wider British public to understand what we went through.”

UK hospital deaths following a positive coronavirus diagnosis have now passed 18,000.

Cover image: Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (Picture: PA).