Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has rejected allegations of Moscow launching a disinformation campaign against Oxford University scientists' efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
The statement comes hours after British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News that "Russia has a track record in this area", when asked about a Times probe into Moscow's alleged attempts to hamper the Oxford vaccine's development.
Russia is not spreading disinformation, it is "proudly speaking of its success" with its own coronavirus vaccine, Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday.
"Commenting on accusations against Russia has become a sort of circus at this point. The accusations make no sense, commenting on them makes no sense", Peskov said, adding that "Russia is not giving anyone false information".
He noted that Russia is "sharing its success in the form of the first registered coronavirus vaccine in the world, whose effectiveness has been proven more than once".
Regarding the UK vaccine, the spokesman said that it was competitors, including some in Britain itself, who were spreading disinformation.
"A number of manufacturers, and this is not quite competition because Russia is in favour of international cooperation at this difficult time of the pandemic, but a number of those who could be called competitors are engaged in disinformation. And they are located in the UK, among other places. But it is obvious that the advantages of our vaccine are being recognised in many countries. And attempts at disinformation fail to achieve their goal", Peskov pointed out.
He spoke after Raab warned "anyone" against "trying to basically sabotage the efforts of those trying to develop a vaccine", which he said is "pretty unacceptable and unjustified in any circumstances". The remarks were preceded by The Times publishing an article titled "Russians spread fake news over Oxford coronavirus vaccine".
"It is obviously aimed at discrediting Russia's efforts in combating the pandemic, including the good cooperation we have established with the UK in this field", the spokesperson emphasised.
Oxford Vaccine Trials on Hold
The accusations against Russia come against the backdrop of a spate of problems pertaining to the trials of the Oxford vaccine, which were put on hold after it emerged that a volunteer had experienced adverse effects as a result of undergoing testing.
Chief executive of the UK-Swedish pharmaceutical giant Astrazeneca Pascal Soriot, for his part, suggested that the vaccine could be approved by regulators by the end of this year.
No Need 'to Steal' Oxford Vax Know-How, Russian Investment Fund CEO Says
In another vaccine-related development, the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said in mid-July that it was working with the US and Canada to identify hacker attacks affecting pharmaceutical companies and scientists in several countries.
The NCSC claimed that Russian intelligence-linked hackers tried to steal data on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine from three countries, allegations that were rejected by Moscow.
Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) CEO Kirill Dmitriev, for his part, described the accusations as nothing but an attempt to tarnish the Russian vaccine.
"There is no need to 'steal' anything from Oxford because AstraZeneca is already in discussions on [a] contract with one of our portfolio companies R-Pharm to produce Oxford vaccines in Russia. So, no stealing is needed, no secrets are needed. Everything has already been given to R-Pharm, our portfolio company, which will be producing Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines in Russia", Dmitriev said.
In August, Russia became the first country in the world to register a vaccine against COVID-19, dubbed Sputnik V and developed by the Gamaleya research institute.
Right now, there are already two registered Russian vaccines to combat the coronavirus, with a third expected to see registration before the end of next month.