17:56 GMT29 November 2020
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    The two countries have engaged in increasingly virulent rhetoric in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus, with Washington claiming Beijing 'covered up' the true extent of its infection rates, and threatening to sanction and sue the Asian nation for damages caused by COVID-19. China has denied these claims, and warned that it would retaliate.

    Moscow considers US accusations against China regarding the spread of the coronavirus to be groundless and destructive, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has announced.

    "We are naturally watching the accusations being made by Washington against the PRC, our strategic partner, with concern and anxiety," Ryabkov said, speaking at the Valdai discussion club's online seminar 'Staying Sane in a Crumbling World' on Thursday.

    "We have repeatedly stated our position on this issue, and it boils down to the fact that there are no reasons to blame China for doing anything that was untimely, wrong or inadequate during the entire period of its fight with the COVID-19 virus," he added.

    According to the senior diplomat, while Russia has been calling on US authorities to take a more responsible approach to issues relating to the coronavirus crisis, such as funding of the World Health Organization, instead, Moscow has observed a trend in the opposite direction.

    "We see how politicians, diplomats and senior figures in the executive branch in Washington literally on a daily basis multiply their list of complaints against China, and try to impose an anti-Chinese discourse among the entire international community," Ryabkov said.

    The diplomat suggested that, at least for the duration of the current crisis, countries must "abandon their own selfish approaches and notions" in favour of finding a common approach to solve problems affecting all of humanity as soon as possible, to figure out "the most effective way to confront the pandemic and find opportunities to restart the world economy with the least possible damage to all of civilization and to each individual country."

    Blame Game

    Ryabkov's remarks come in the wake of a multipronged effort by US officials to blame China for the coronavirus, with the latest campaign consisting of lawsuits and legislation against Beijing by Republican lawmakers and governors over its alleged mishandling of the pandemic, including demands for economic compensation and even an effort to strip China of its sovereign immunity to allow individual Americans to sue the Chinese government. In a separate development, on Wednesday, the FBI issued a statement accusing Chinese researchers and hackers of seeking to steal US coronavirus vaccine research. Before that, the Trump administration floated a variety of ideas for 'punishing' China for the outbreak, including possible punitive tariffs or even a refusal to pay back part of the US's massive multi-trillion-dollar debt to the People's Republic.

    Also in recent weeks, US and Chinese officials have engaged in an increasingly harsh media war, tightening visa guidelines and kicking one another's journalists out of the other's country over their coverage of the coronavirus crisis.

    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he points towards China on a chart showing daily mortality cases during the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 18, 2020
    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he points towards China on a chart showing daily mortality cases during the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 18, 2020

    China, which has focused much of its energy and resources on dealing with the medical, social and economic consequences of the coronavirus at home and sending medical assistance to countries in need, has engaged in some finger-pointing of its own against the US, speculating in March that the US Army may have brought the novel coronavirus to Wuhan last year.

    The increasingly vehement back and forth rhetoric comes amid claims by US officials that the virus may have originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, an allegation that most scientists have dismissed. At the same time, multiple educational institutions in the US, Australia and other Western nations have begun probes into their researchers' ties to the Wuhan lab and its research on bat coronaviruses viruses and their dangers to humans.

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