Russia has announced plans to increase spending on its armed forces, and the creation of a new branch of its armed forces to focus on information warfare, the country’s defence minister has said.

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Declaring increases to spending on more troops, missiles and planes, the Russian defence minister, Sergey Shoygu said that the formation of the dedicated information warfare was a key part of future military planning and that “propaganda needs to be clever, smart and efficient.” He did not however go into specifics regarding just what type of missions the new information warfare division would have.

That said, the move is likely to heighten the West’s concerns about what it sees as Moscow-sponsored “fake news. Moscow’s activities in this area have come under intense scrutiny in recent months, especially after U.S. intelligence agencies have claimed to have evidence that Kremlin mounted an in-depth “influence operation” to help Donald Trump win the U.S. presidential election last November. European intelligence agencies have also highlighted the fact that Russia seems to be seeking to destabilise governments and influence elections in Europe with cyber-attacks and the dissemination of fake news.

Moscow has denied interfering in other countries’ elections. That said, Russian military planners like their counterparts elsewhere, have openly admitted that the spreading of propaganda, disinformation and hacking is a crucial part of modern warfare and its importance and influence is only set to grow.

“An army for informational operations has been set up that is much more effective and stronger than what we had previously created for the purpose of what we call counter-propaganda, “Mr Shoygu informed the lower Russian house of parliament, the Duma, state news agency Itar-Tass reported.

Commenting on Mr Shoigu’s remarks to the BBC, former Russian commander-in-chief Gen Yuri Baluyevsky said a victory in information warfare “can be much more important than victory in a classical military conflict, because it is bloodless, yet the impact is overwhelming and can paralyse all of the enemy state’s power structures.”