China accused “certain countries” of spreading disinformation in a video call Friday with Russia, as the two nations sought a closer alliance while relations continue to deteriorate between Beijing and Washington.

The remarks come as China and the US have been caught in an escalating tit-for-tat dispute that spans media, territorial sovereignty, diplomacy, human rights, trade and technological dominance. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman and director of its information department Hua Chunying spoke with her Russian counterpart Maria Zakharova, the ministry said in a statement Friday evening.

Both sides agreed that… certain countries, out of ideological bias and political needs, have been spreading disinformation, distorting history… politicizing the pandemic, pinning labels on the virus,” said the statement, echoing Beijing’s rebukes to US accusations that China had covered up the initial outbreak and handled it badly.

Such acts have “severely poisoned the atmosphere of global public opinion, obstructed international cooperation against the virus, and set obstacles to mutual understanding among people from different countries,” the statement continued, without naming the US directly. Zakharova, for her part, said that instead of pooling resources to fight the coronavirus pandemic, China and Russia “must fight against attacks in the information field”.

Those attacks have escalated from “aggressive rhetoric” to “an attempt to provoke confrontation in the Russian and Chinese public sphere”.  she continued, adding: “I think that if we fight back together (with China), then it will be twice as effective.

Both China and Russia have been accused by the US of cyber attacks and espionage — but the relationship between Beijing and Moscow has been warming of late. President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin exchanged messages on Thursday praising their cooperation on fighting COVID-19, state media CGTN reported.

Beijing has repeatedly accused US officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of spreading a “political virus” and engaging in “slander” against China, particularly over the origins of the virus and China’s influence over the World Health Organization.

Both Pompeo and US President Donald Trump have previously suggested the virus was created or leaked from a Wuhan laboratory, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus first emerged late last year. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also suggested in March that the virus was brought to Wuhan by the US military.

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