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Moscow: Western media spread fake news of Russia's COVID mortality to distract public

The Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out that the two newspapers had published similar articles simultaneously and both had failed to present Russia’s position

MOSCOW, May 13. /TASS/. Fake news stories about Russian authorities’ attempts to underreport the number of coronavirus deaths are aimed at distracting the public from domestic issues, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, commenting on certain articles in the Financial Times and the New York Times.

"While they could have carefully and honestly assessed the situation and Russia’s experience, journalists from a number of western media outlets were capable only of making an awkward and biased attempt to divert the public’s attention from domestic issues to another sensational Russia-related story," the statement reads.

The Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out that the two newspapers had published similar articles simultaneously and both had failed to present Russia’s position. "In view of these groundless allegations, we would like to draw the Western media’s attention to a statement that Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova made on May 12. She openly rejected allegations of data manipulations," the statement added. "All the data, including that concerning the death toll, is publicly available and is updated on a regular basis. The April data will be released at the end of the following month (May) but the government already has the latest information, which says that Russia’s coronavirus death toll is indeed several times lower than the average global rate," the document added.

The ministry noted that foreign reporters had ignored "the unprecedented work that has been done in Russia in order to maximize the healthcare system’s capability to respond to the coronavirus threat."

According to the ministry, facts show that six weeks ago, Russia surpassed many other countries on all crucial indicators, including the number of medical workers, hospital beds and ventilator machines. "Maybe they should have listened to [US] National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci who recently told the Senate Committee on Health that the US COVID death toll could be higher than reported. Not in Russia but in the US," the Russian Foreign Ministry emphasized.

The London-based Financial Times newspaper wrote earlier that "Russia’s national death toll from coronavirus could be 70% higher than the government’s official data show." World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Russia Melita Vujnovic, in turn, told the Rossiya-24 TV channel that there was no evidence proving that Russian authorities were trying to hide the actual coronavirus death toll.

Coronavirus pandemic

In late December 2019, Chinese officials notified the World Health Organization about the outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, in central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus - named COVID-19 by the WHO - have been reported in every corner of the globe, including Russia.

On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. According to the latest statistics, over 4,355,000 people have been infected worldwide and more than 293,000 deaths have been reported. In addition, so far, over 1,610,000 individuals have recovered from the illness across the globe.

To date, a total of 242,271 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Russia, with 48,003 patients having recovered from the virus. Russia’s latest data indicates 2,212 fatalities nationwide. Earlier, the Russian government set up an Internet hotline to keep the public updated on the coronavirus situation.