Lavrov slams allegation Russian spies stole AstraZeneca formula

Russian foreign minister says ‘unfounded’ claim made in a popular British tabloid newspaper will not be taken seriously.

Lavrov said claims made in the UK press that Russian spies stole information from AstraZeneca were baseless [File: Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool/AP]

Claims in the British press that Russian spies stole the blueprint for the British-made Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are unfounded, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

An October 10 article in The Sun newspaper, a popular daily tabloid, recently alleged that Russian spies “stole” the formula of the vaccine, developed by UK-Swedish company AstraZeneca, to create Russia’s Sputnik V jab.

The paper cited anonymous security sources in its brief, 339-word, story.

Speaking at a news conference in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan on Tuesday, Lavrov said, “As for our British and other Western partners, I don’t think someone will take these unfounded statements seriously.

“There have already been many baseless accusations,” he said.

While there have been reports of rare side-effects with AstraZeneca’s shots, with a tiny minority of people experiencing blood-clotting after receiving the jab, “no such cases have occurred with Sputnik V”, Lavrov said, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.

“I think that everyone who is interested will draw conclusions for themselves.”

The row comes as the United Kingdom and Russia are at opposite ends of their vaccination campaigns.

About 85 percent of people over 12 have had a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the UK, while almost 80 percent have had both jabs.

But while Russia was fast to develop and launch its Sputnik vaccine when the pandemic struck last year, take-up has been slow, with many citing distrust of the authorities and fear of new medical products.

Just 33 percent in Russia are fully vaccinated.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia needed to speed up its vaccination campaign against COVID-19 as the country recorded 973 coronavirus-related deaths, its highest single-day toll since the start of the pandemic.

In total, Russia has recorded 426,361 coronavirus-related deaths, while the UK’s death toll stands at 137,763.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies