Disinfo: Russian Embassy caught The New York Times juggling facts on coronavirus mortality rate


Our embassy in the United States caught The New York Times, the largest American newspaper, juggling and hushing up facts that are clearly not in the US’s favour. The day before, an article appeared on its pages stating that the Moscow Department of Health allegedly intentionally underestimates the statistics of mortality from coronavirus. The New York Times cited figures as evidence. In April of this year, 1700 more people died in Moscow than in April of the past year, although according to official deaths from COVID, about 650 were registered. Our Health Department published the answer on the pages of the same publication: it makes no sense to compare the increase in mortality in the monthly dynamics. This is too small to identify trends. In addition, if we take, for example, the numbers of 2018, the difference will be much smaller.


The NYT in its article "A Coronavirus Mystery Explained: Moscow Has 1,700 Extra Deaths" and FT in the article Russia’s Covid death toll could be 70 per cent higher than official figure" from May 11, said that data released by Moscow’s city government on Friday shows that the number of overall registered deaths in the Russian capital in April exceeded the five-year average for the same period by more than 1,700. That total is far higher than the official Covid-19 death count of 642 - an indication of significant underreporting by the authorities. Within two days, on May 13 (the day that the TASS' article was also published), the Moscow City Health Administration’s statement admitted that, indeed, over 60% of deaths from COVID-19 were accounted in Russian statistics as deaths “from obvious alternative causes” such as heart attacks, stroke, cancer and others. The same principle of attribution of deaths of patients with coronavirus is implemented in at least several Russian regions, for example, in the Chelyabinsk region: here, official death statistics openly divides those with confirmed coronavirus into those for whom COVID-19 became the "main" cause of death with those who are classed as having had "concomitant disease". For comparison, see the principles of WHO. Indeed, coronavirus may trigger other diseases, such as heart attacks, but without coronavirus the victim may have had been alive. Russian MFA's threatened to cancel the accreditation of both NYT and FT in Russia. On May 18, the NYT published a letter of response by the Head of Moscow's health department as an "opinion": "We perform an autopsy in every case, and therefore we are confident in the accuracy of our data. An increase in mortality rates is natural with an increase of acute respiratory viral infections, which aggravate the underlying illnesses". The practice of a right to response has nothing to do with "being caught juggling facts". See more disinformation cases on the coronavirus.


  • Reported in: Issue 198
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 19/05/2020
  • Outlet language(s) Russian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: US, Russia
  • Keywords: coronavirus
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Disinfo: US and IMF define and control political appointments in Ukraine

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy is frankly helpless in economic decisions and appointments (these issues in Ukraine are controlled by the US Embassy and the IMF). As a matter of fact, the president-actor gave up the key government functions in the field of humanitarian policy to “sorosiata” [followers of George Soros] and nationalists. As a result, the policy of state Russophobia under the new regime has not been curtailed, it continues to be officially supported.


Recurrent disinformation narrative claiming that Ukraine became a puppet of the US, the EU or the West because they fomented a coup, mixed with a narrative about Russophobia in Ukraine. Ukraine is a sovereign and independent state with a democratically-elected President and parliament. Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are respected by almost the whole world. The relations between the US and Ukraine are bilateral relations between two independent countries. The US recognised Ukraine as an independent state on 25 December 1991. The US policy is centred on realising and strengthening a stable, democratic, prosperous, and free Ukraine more closely integrated into Europe and Euro-Atlantic structures. Ukraine has been a member of the IMF and World Bank since 3 September 1992. The relations between Ukraine and the IMF are based on agreements that support the economic development of Ukraine and the improvement of the free market conditions. Likewise, Ukraine is not a Russophobic country as is often claimed by the Kremlin media. It had to react to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the act of aggression by the Russian armed forces in Donbas. It did not ban the Russian language, as is often claimed by the Kremlin, nor did it ban contact between Ukrainians and Russians. Read more disinformation cases about Ukraine being under foreign control here.

Disinfo: A hunger riot broke out near Odessa

In Ukraine riots break out because people are hungry and lash out in a violent public disturbance against authority, property or people, which is the definition of riots.


Recurrent narrative undermining Ukraine, specifically about hunger riots. In reality the port of Chernomorsk, near Odessa experiences economic difficulties and some employees of "Europian Agro Investment Ukraine", which rent the second terminal since 2018, haven't been paid since last October. About 100 people demonstrated peacefully, with protective masks and respecting social distancing. They blocked a street near the bus stop "railroad station" with signs expressing their will to receive their salaries and their company to be nationalised by the Ukrainian state. They warned that next time they could block a road with more traffic to make their demand more audible. The reportage of the media Dumskaya documents the event and shows that no violence was used.

Disinfo: Switzerland banned all vaccinations for 5 years and considered them harmful

The Federal Assembly passed a law on a moratorium on vaccinations for 5 years. The documents explain that vaccines against measles, chicken pox and all other infections cause harm and are dangerous for human health.


Recurring conspiracy theory on vaccines which are being amplified in the context of the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign around the coronavirus. The claim is false and was originally invented by Russian satirical website panorama.pub. Vaccinations in Switzerland are not compulsory but vaccines against various infections are recommended. Switzerland nonetheless has high vaccination rates. For example, in 2018, among 16 years olds in Switzerland, 97% had been vaccinated for Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Tenanus. Vaccinations for other diseases such as Tick-borne encephalitis (47%) are lower – however, at the beginning of 2019, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) confirmed that vaccination against tick borne encephalitis is now covered by basic Swiss health insurance. See here for more examples by Myth Detector on how satire is spread as real news to affect public opinion.