Coronavirus: Russian media hint at US conspiracy
Posted on February 8th, 2020

By BBC Monitoring Essential Media Insight

Graphic from Russia's Channel One TV
Image captionRussia’s Channel One has aired a theory linking the coronavirus to President Trump

The coronavirus outbreak in China has provided fertile ground for conspiracy theories and misinformation on the web everywhere, but in Russia they are being spread on primetime news programmes.

Russian TV is also unique in having a consistent overall thrust: that shadowy Western elites and especially the US are somehow ultimately to blame.

One of main national TV networks, Channel One, has even launched a regular slot devoted to coronavirus conspiracy theories on its main evening news programme, Vremya (“Time”).

The style of the reporting is ambiguous, appearing to debunk the theories while leaving viewers with the impression that they contain a kernel of truth.

One of the wilder ideas aired by Vremya recently is that the presence of the word “corona”, which means crown in both Latin and Russian, in the word coronavirus hints that Donald Trump is somehow involved.

Russian TV graphic showing Trump with a crown
Image captionChannel One’s Kirill Kleymyonov suggested that the theory of a US role in the outbreak could not be dismissed out of hand

Apparently, this is because he used to preside over beauty pageants, handing the winners their crowns.

In fact, scientists named the virus because of of its crown-like shape, but Vremya’s presenter warns against rejecting the idea all too soon.

“Utter nonsense, you’ll say, and I’d agree with you, if it were not for what’s in our correspondent’s report,” he says.

‘Ethnic bioweapon’

The subsequent video does admit the crown theory is a “strange construct”, but uncritically presents an expert who says that the Chinese coronavirus strain has been artificially created, and that US intelligence agencies or American pharmaceutical companies are behind it.

The report also rehashes old, false claims by Kremlin media and officials that the US ran a laboratory in Georgia where it tested a biological weapon on humans.

The Channel One correspondent then quotes online conspiracy theories that the novel coronavirus strain affects only Asians and could be some kind of “ethnic bioweapon”.

Russian TV graphic
Image captionChannel One’s coronavirus coverage has repeated unfounded allegations of a US “bio-weapon” programme

He concedes that there is clear evidence refuting this, but adds suggestively: “Even experts who are cautious in their assessments say that nothing can be ruled out.”

Coronavirus conspiracy theories have also featured heavily on Channel One’s main political talk show, Vremya Pokazhet (Time Will Tell), only more openly than on news programmes.

The gist is to suggest that various Western actors – pharmaceutical companies, the US or its agencies – are somehow involved in helping to create or spread the virus, or at least in spreading panic about it.

The aim is variously said to be – in the case of “Big Pharma” – to profit from creating a vaccine against the coronavirus or, in the case of the US, to hit the Chinese economy in order to weaken a geopolitical competitor.

Blood checks for officials

Away from the TV screens, the coronavirus outbreak appears to be causing serious concern among Russian officials.

Rail and air traffic to China have been curtailed, and Russians evacuated from China have been quarantined for two weeks in a Siberian sanatorium.

A church in Moscow has even held a service to pray for salvation from the coronavirus.

Fear or the virus appears to reach all the way to the top.

Russian daily Vedomosti reports that Kremlin has introduced temperature checks for those attending events with President Vladimir Putin, in what spokesman Dmitry Peskov has called a “precautionary measure”.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

One Response to “Coronavirus: Russian media hint at US conspiracy”

  1. aloy Says:

    Manufactured or not people of coloured skin seemed to be able to fight it more effectively than those from the the East Asia. It is very sad to see (as shown in BBC, CNN etc) the Chinese struggling to cope with the situation which will surely disappear with time.
    Not being a medical professional I am not qualified to give advice but would like to explain how we fought out against a strong virus, a flu brought to SL end of last month from Singapore by my daughter’s family who live there. I do not know whether it was Coronavirus but most of us including me got it. Though we had planned to travel to various places in SL during the holiday of my children who arrived from two other western countries all of us had to confine to our place of residence. With the help of heavy doses of vitamin C (soluble vitamin tablets of an expensive brand not found in SL) we were able to overcome it without going to any doctor. Each time I felt that it was trying to relapse I took heavy doses of the vitamin C.
    With so many Chinese around here in SL, I believe our cultural practices which are perhaps deep rooted help us to keep diseases like these at bay. According to the archeologist Raj Somadeva they found two types of leaves trapped between the teeth of a man who had died 37000 years ago. His skull had been found in a cave named Fa Hien in the south of the country. After analysis they found that the man had eaten leaves from two trees, one having pain killer properties and the other with anti-bacterial properties. So, they deduce that the man was suffering from tooth problems before he died. The identification of the plants in the vicinity by comparing the silicon crystals in the leaves is another very interesting subject matter. Perhaps the people (agronomists) who use bio fertilizer and silicon power in agriculture can explain. So much for the indegenous practices in various communities that help to fight these diseases.
    As seen from TV images large number of people live in congested places without fresh air that is exposed to light. Perhaps the air purifier invented by the Sri lankan guy can be used in these places with maximum effect. Why we appear dark is because we absorb almost full spectrum of light and that may be helping us to fight various viruses. So why not use strong radiation including UV to purify air in these places as is being done in BIA at Katunayake. I understand that this gadget is very popular in India as well.

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