14 May 2020 09:24

NYT insists on accuracy of its Russia Covid-19 death toll article disputed by Russian Foreign Ministry

MOSCOW. May 14 (Interfax) - The New York Times newspaper is confident that its article about the coronavirus death toll in Russia, the veracity of which was earlier disputed by the Russian Foreign Ministry, is accurate.

"We're confident in the accuracy of our story, which is based on publicly available government records and interviews with experts from government-run institutions. No facts in our story are in dispute," The New York Times Vice President for Communications Danielle Rhoades told Interfax.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said earlier that the ministry would send letters to the Financial Times and New York Times newspapers to demand their retraction of publications regarding the number of Covid-19 deaths in Russia. The further work of these outlets in Russia will depend on whether they publish a retraction, she said.

The ministry also called these articles, which claim that "the Russian government is underreporting the number of deaths from the new coronavirus infection," groundless speculation and "another sensational anti-Russian fake."

FT and NYT said in their articles that the actual death toll from Covid-19 in Moscow and St. Petersburg could be 70% higher than the official figures. To prove their assertions, the media outlets citied data from the two cities' authorities that showed that the number of deaths from all causes in April 2020 was almost 2,000 higher than in April 2019.

The Moscow Health Department, for its part, denied these reports, saying that it is inappropriate to compare overall mortality rates on a month-on-month basis, and this does not help draw conclusions on tendencies. Besides, Covid-19 diagnosis is established as a result of an autopsy, data of which is "exceptionally accurate".

The State Duma asked the Russian Foreign Ministry to take measures in relation to FT and NYT, which could include even steps to strip these media outlets of their accreditation in Russia.