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Iran Press TV

Russia's FM Lavrov blasts media rumors Moscow seeks to 'hide' data on COVID-19 deaths

Iran Press TV

Friday, 15 May 2020 11:14 PM

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has strongly dismissed media reports that Moscow sought to conceal the real number of Russians dying of the COVID-19 contagious disease, saying the Kremlin has no intention whatsoever to hide such information.

Russia's top diplomat made the remarks in an interview with Russia's RBC news website on Friday, a few days after The New York Times and the UK-based Financial Times claimed that the real death toll from the disease in Russia could be much higher than what Moscow is announcing.

"As for the coronavirus statistics, I can assure you that the Russian authorities would be the last to try to hide the truth," Lavrov stressed.

"This is no joke, it is about human lives and I think that it is outrageous to play with them. Just like it is outrageous to try to take advantage of the situation in order to tarnish a country's image," he added.

As of Friday, figures by Russia's Health Ministry showed that 262,843 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 2,418 others died of the disease.

The New York Times accused the Russian authorities of significant underreporting while the Financial Times claimed that "Russia could have 70 percent more coronavirus deaths than it reports."

Elsewhere in the interview, Lavrov was asked about the possibility that Moscow might revoke the credentials of the two newspapers for their allegations against the Russian government.

"I haven't heard anything about it. I principally oppose kangaroo trials of journalists but journalists should take responsibility for what they publish," the Russian foreign minister replied.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also complained about what she called "disinformation" by the two newspapers, saying that letters demanding a retraction would be passed on to both in the same day.

On the possibility that the two newspapers be stripped of their accreditation and effectively banned from working in Russia, she said that measures against the media organizations "will depend on whether they run the retraction."

Last month, Russian legislators approved fines of up to $25,000 and prison terms of up to five years for any individual who spreads "false information" during the global pandemic. Media outlets, under the measure, could also be fined up to $127,000 for disseminating disinformation about COVID-19.

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