Enjoying ad-free content?
Since July 1, 2024, we have disabled all ads to improve your reading experience.
This commitment costs us $10,000 a month. Your support can help us fill the gap.
Support us
Our journalism is banned in Russia. We need your help to keep providing you with the truth.

NYT Defies Russia’s Call to Retract Report on Coronavirus Deaths

Russia only counts the deaths of coronavirus-positive patients toward its total if pathologists say the virus played a direct role in their deaths. Sergei Bobylev / TASS

The New York Times stands by its reporting on Russia’s low coronavirus death figures and will not issue a retraction, the paper’s vice president for communications Danielle Rhoades Ha told Russian state media Wednesday.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry had demanded that NYT and the Financial Times retract reports, based on Moscow’s own official mortality data showing a spike in deaths last month, that Russia could be undercounting its Covid-19 deaths. Ranking behind only the United States in infections, Russia places 18th in the world for mortality with 2,305 Covid-19 deaths as of Thursday.

“We’re confident in the accuracy of our material based on data published by an official government agency and interviews with experts from state institutions,” Rhoades Ha told the state-run TASS news agency.

“None of the facts in our article are disputed,” she added.

Because Russia only counts the deaths of coronavirus-positive patients toward its total if pathologists say the virus played a direct role in their deaths, critics have long cast doubt on its low official numbers.

Moscow, the epicenter of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, has also seen a low mortality rate compared to other world capitals since the start of the pandemic.

Preliminary data from the Moscow civil registry office showed almost 20% more fatalities in April 2020 than the average April mortality over the past decade. The data, first published by The Moscow Times on Sunday, suggests that the city’s excess deaths may be linked to coronavirus. 

Moscow’s Health Department said Wednesday that more than 60% of deaths among Moscow’s coronavirus patients are not being counted toward the city’s official virus death toll because these patients died of other underlying causes. It also refuted claims that it was under-reporting its coronavirus deaths.

Moscow reported 639 deaths directly caused by Covid-19 in April, meaning about 1,597 coronavirus-positive patients died that month overall based on the Health Department's percentage.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Wednesday that Russian lawmakers had called on the ministry to strip NYT and FT of accreditation.

“It’s an extreme measure and not our practice,” Zakharova said.

“Further steps will depend on whether they publish retractions,” she warned.

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more