Disinfo: The Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine makes Putin the protector of the people, says Bloomberg

Summary

The emergence of a Russian coronavirus vaccine, able to put an end to the epidemic, was received with scepticism. They tried to discredit the medicine developed by Russian scientists, pointing to the rush to create a vaccine. However, Bloomberg says that not everything is that bad because “secondary effects in vaccines are rare”. The Russian vaccine causes a sensation, the article says. Though this development was severely criticised in the United States, US authorities felt the need to reassure its citizens by claiming that their own vaccine was already in full development. But for the Kremlin, this global race is not a priority. The coronavirus seriously ruined 2020 for Vladimir Putin, forcing him to eradicate the virus as fast as possible. “By promising a vaccine, he became again the people’s defender,” Bloomberg says.

Disproof

This is a deliberate distortion of the original Bloomberg article, titled “Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine Gamble Is All About Vladimir Putin”. The article doesn’t praise Vladimir Putin as the protector of the people but rather states that the Russian president is trying to present himself as such by making this announcement. Bloomberg explicitly says:

“The rushed endorsement (…) is less an affirmation of Russian scientific prowess than it is an expression of Putin’s hankering for Soviet-era international clout. It’s a premature victory lap that suggests a worrying need for affirmation at home too”.

Another distortion is the claim on secondary effects. The Bloomberg article says: “While adverse effects from vaccines are rare, they are not unheard of,” meaning the opposite from what the disinformation message presents. The disinformation message also introduces several pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives not mentioned in the original Bloomberg article, such as claims about “an attempt to discredit the Russian coronavirus vaccine” or the assertion that the global vaccine race is not a priority for the Kremlin. The opposite is true: there is credible evidence that the Russian government pressed Russian scientists and researchers to be the first to find a vaccine against Covid-19, and did everything at hand to shorten the process, raising concerns about the safety and efficiency of the Sputnik V vaccine. Reservations and criticism are caused by the fact that Russia hasn’t completed large trials to test the drug, and rolling out an inadequately vetted vaccine could endanger people who receive it. Pro-Kremlin media frequently resort to this manipulative technique of quoting sentences from serious publications and then introducing a distorted message as if it was part of the original article. See other examples in our database, such as false claims that British outlet The Guardian pointed out to ruling elite as the real instigators of the racial crisis in the US or reported that the EU remained silent as the Europeans couldn’t buy food for the first time in 75 years; that Newsweek magazine explained how US coup in Iran will end; that Soros’ structures saw an opportunity in the coronavirus pandemic to attack the “bad guys”; that the US National Counterintelligence and Security Centre put Wikileaks at the same threat level as jihadist organisations in its last report; or that the US special envoy for Syria admitted that Washington’s goal was to defend terrorists from Russian attacks.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 208
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 14/08/2020
  • Outlet language(s) Spanish, Castilian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: US, Russia
  • Keywords: coronavirus, vaccination, Mainstream media, Media, Vladimir Putin
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Ukrainian ex-president Leonid Kravchuk is looking for new ways to deceive Donbas

Ukrainian ex-president Leonid Kravchuk is looking for new ways to deceive Donbas. One of the key issues of the Minsk agreements, which Ukraine has not fulfilled for years, is the consolidation of the special status of the self-proclaimed Republics in the constitution of Ukraine. Instead, Kravchuk is discussing the organisation of the free economic zone and ideas to involve civil society in the negotiations. There is even a will to personally go to the rebellious Donetsk and Luhansk and speak directly with the local authorities there. However, behind all these ideas, one can clearly see Zelenskyy himself, his opponents, the upcoming elections, a desire to speak a lot, but not to sign anything.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the war in Ukraine and the Minsk Agreements. Ukrainian ex-president Leonid Kravchuk, who is the new representative of Ukraine in the Tripartite Contact Group for the settlement of the situation in Donbas, is not trying to deceive Donbas. For example, he is proposing instead of the concept of "special status" of Donbas to use a new wording - "special regime of administrative management", which will comply with Ukrainian legislation. Over the last 12 months, Ukraine has made serious steps to resolve the conflict in Donbas peacefully. Ukraine initiated a Normandy Four meeting that was held on 9 December 2019. Ukraine agreed that a full and comprehensive ceasefire is necessary. The parties of the Normandy Summit also agreed to release captives on the principle "all for all" by December 2019. Three prisoner exchanges have been conducted, with the last one taking place during the COVID-19 lockdown. The law on special order of local self-government in certain areas of Donbas was extended for another year. A disengagement of troops was achieved in Zolote, Petrivske, and Stanytsia Luhanska. Ukraine also rebuilt a bridge in Stanytsia Luhanska that was destroyed by the pro-Russian militants in March 2015. Moreover, the negotiations in the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) have not been suspended due to the coronavirus crisis. The meetings were held in a video format. See earlier disinformation cases alleging that Ukraine is trying to compromise and undermine the Minsk agreements, that Ukraine claims that the Minsk agreements are just a piece of paper, that Ukraine refuses to implement the Minsk agreements and continues the war in Donbas, and that Ukraine refuses to observe a truce in Donbas.

West wants to take advantage of political instability in Belarus

It is obvious that Western countries want to take advantage of the temporary political instability in Belarus, which, with the help of social networks and controlled by the West media, create a negative image, as if people in all settlements of Belarus took to the streets and started protests.

Disproof

Conspiracy theory. Pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative alleging that the protests in Belarus that followed the Presidential elections are orchestrated by external actors. The EU and the US do not take advantage of political instability in Belarus. They support the desire of Belarusians for the respect of human rights, free and fair elections. The EU condemned violence against the protesters and called on Belarusian authorities to start "an open dialogue with society". The EU High Representative stated that the EU supports the sovereignty of Belarus but the "sanctions against those responsible for the violence, arbitrary arrests and falsification of election results" may be introduced and relations reconsidered. The US Department of State also condemned the violence and called on the government of Belarus to respect "the rights of all Belarusians to participate in peaceful assembly". It mentioned that the elections were not free and fair and that the "OSCE/ODIHR observers did not receive a timely invitation to monitor the vote." It further noted that the US supports Belarusian independence and sovereignty together with democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus and that the government must show its "commitment to democratic process and respect for human rights." The original claim also states that the protests were orchestrated by the media and that in reality there were no protests. In fact, the protests started in the run-up to elections when restrictions on ballot access for candidates were introduced. People also visited pre-elections meetings of opposition candidates in huge numbers. When the elections finished and the preliminary results were announced, people took to the street to show their disagreement with what they believe to be a falsification of elections. The protests happened in all major cities, including Minsk, Homiel, Hrodna, Mahiliou, Viciebsk, Baranavichy, Navahrudak, and others. On Sunday, 16 August, tens of thousands of Belarusians have gathered in Minsk for the biggest protest in the country’s history.

Violent protests in Belarus are a pretext for foreign interference and destabilisation

There are clear attempts of foreign interference, aiming to cause a division in society and to destabilise the situation [in Belarus]. The Kremlin observed an unprecedented pressure by individual foreign partners on Belarusian authorities. Brussels and Washington started using post-electoral violence and the measures adopted by Minsk to contain these riots as a pretext to present new accusations against the country.

Disproof

This is part of an ongoing Russian disinformation campaign about post-electoral protests in Belarus, portraying demonstrations against president Alexander Lukashenko as a Western-led violent colour revolution. Contrary to the claim, anti-Lukashenko protests have been mostly peaceful, and violence has come from Belarusian police and authorities against demonstrators, including beatings, torture and excessive force. These human rights violations are not a pretext used by Western powers to pressure Minsk, but rather Washington, Brussels and other Western capitals protested them as a reaction to Lukashenko’s abuses. There are also strong evidences pointing that the election was rigged. See other examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives in Belarus, such as claims that the EU reaction to Lukashenko’s victory is an example of Western double standards; that the same lack of democracy and repression is present in EU countries that criticize them in Minsk; that the arrest of Russian mercenaries in Belarus was a Ukrainian provocation, and the Ukrainian secret services may have planned terrorist attacks in Belarusian territory; that the West wants to prepare another Maidan in the country; or that Belarusians, Ukrainians and Russians are one single nation.