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FT publishes Russian ambassador's official response to article on COVID-19 mortality

UK newspaper Financial Times (FT) has published an official letter by Russia's ambassador to London, Andrei Kelin, which came as a response to its earlier article, suggesting that Russia deliberately underreported the number of novel coronavirus deaths on its territory.

"I feel compelled to express disagreement with the Financial Times' coverage of Russia's efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Judging by your reports, Russia's response has been to manipulate with figures at home and to spread disinformation abroad, with the government acting inefficiently and doctors having inadequate protection," the ambassador wrote. "This distorted picture requires a refutation. Even by most pessimistic accounts, Russia's performance in terms of healthcare system capacity and death rate is among the best of all major countries."

Kelin said the May 11 article "carries inaccurate statements coupled with an unacceptable and unprofessional one-sided narrative."

He went on to say that "Russia's Covid-19 mortality rate is 7.6 times lower than the global average."

"It would do so much more service to your readers if your authors sought to analyse Russia's best practices that have made this result possible, rather than seeking statistical inaccuracies," the diplomat wrote. "Otherwise, such articles are widely seen in Russia as spreading fake news and sowing discord in the Russian society. I invite the Financial Times to join efforts of the international community, led by UN secretary-general AntĚnio Guterres, to fight Covid-19 disinformation."

He strongly dismissed the Financial Times's allegations that Russia's death rate doesn't match the global cases-to-deaths ratio.

"Your Moscow correspondents will be aware of the wide testing programme that allows for early detection and timely treatment of the disease," he said, adding that Russia's "policy of compiling mortality statistics is also clear: as the health ministry has explained on a number of occasions, even in Covid-positive patients, the primary cause of death is registered, and that may be another disease."

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 told the Rossiya-24 TV channel that there was no evidence proving that Russian authorities were trying to hide the actual coronavirus death toll.

To date, a total of 262,843 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Russia, with 58,226 patients having recovered from the virus. Russia's latest data indicates 2,418 fatalities nationwide.

[Source: Tass, London, 16May20]

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