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Kremlin dismisses vaccine disinformation campaign accusations as ‘circus’



Vladimir Putin sitting at a desk: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the vaccine on a video conference call with government officials.


© Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the vaccine on a video conference call with government officials.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dismissed the reaction of the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to the Times report saying that Russia is engaging in a disinformation campaign to discredit the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine in an effort to promote its own vaccine Sputnik V, developed by the Gamaleya Institute.

“Commenting on the accusations against Russia is getting more and more circus-like,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters Friday. “Russia is not misinforming anyone, Russia proudly talks about its successes and Russia shares its successes regarding the first ever registered [coronavirus] vaccine in the world.”

The Times published a report on Friday outlining a supposed Russian disinformation campaign “designed to undermine and spread fear about the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine.” The campaign involves spreading memes and videos suggesting the vaccine, manufactured by a pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is “a monkey vaccine” that could turn people into monkeys because it uses a chimpanzee virus as a vector, according to the newspaper.

“We know that Russia has got a track record in this area. Previously we’ve commented and called them out on it,” Raab said in an interview with Sky News.

“But anyone trying to basically sabotage the efforts of those trying to develop a vaccine I think are deeply reprehensible. It’s unacceptable and unjustified in any circumstances.”

The Times said a “whistleblower” “involved in the campaign” passed on the images to the paper out of concern about potential damage to the public health efforts. The newspaper notes it is not clear whether the campaign was directly authorized by the Kremlin but added “there is evidence that some Russian officials were involved in its organisation and dissemination.”

“Misinformation is a clear risk to public health. This is especially true during the current pandemic which continues to claim tens of thousands of lives, significantly disrupt the way we live and damage the economy,” Pascal Soriot, CEO at AstraZeneca, said in a statement.

“I urge everyone to use reliable sources of information, to trust regulatory agencies and to remember the enormous benefit vaccines and medicines continue to bring to humanity.”

Disinformation is “reckless and contemptible behaviour that could lead to real damage to people’s health”, said a source in Whitehall, the area in central London where key UK ministries are based. “This sort of lie fundamentally harms all of us around the world and we need to be alert to identify and counter this kind of activity to support the provision of factual information for all people about Covid-19 and vaccines.”

When asked to comment on the article, the Kremlin spokesperson in turn accused the UK of spreading disinformation about the Russian vaccine suggesting it’s a testament to the unfair competition in the vaccine race.

“Russia already has documents of intention to sell or jointly produce this vaccine in a number of countries, and of course in these countries Russia is not

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