Navalny Aides Say Novichok Found On Hotel Water Bottle

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends a hearing at a court in Moscow on June 24, 2019/ AFP

 

Aides of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny said Thursday that German experts found Novichok nerve agent on a water bottle taken from the hotel room where he stayed before being taken ill.

The bottle appears to have been key evidence for Germany’s conclusion that the 44-year-old lawyer and outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin was poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent.

Specialists from a German military laboratory found traces of Novichok on a bottle of “Holy Spring” water Navalny left in his hotel room in the Siberian city of Tomsk, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said in a video statement.

The discovery “means that Navalny was poisoned before he left the hotel and not in the airport or on the plane,” Yarmysh said.

Navalny collapsed last month on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow after a campaign trip to support opposition candidates in local elections.

Previously aides had suggested he had been poisoned by a cup of tea he drank at an airport cafe.

Navalny is being treated in a hospital in Berlin and on Tuesday said he was breathing for the first time without medical support.

Germany has said it has “unequivocal evidence” that he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent and this week reported that labs in France and Sweden had confirmed the findings.

His ally Lyubov Sobol tweeted Thursday that even though the toxin was found on the container, “that doesn’t mean Navalny was poisoned specifically by the bottle of water”.

He stayed for three nights at Tomsk’s Xander hotel, a modern four-star hotel, and also visited its restaurant, according to transport police.

Navalny’s team, some of whom were staying at the same hotel, collected the bottle and other items from his room straight after hearing he had been taken ill on August 20.

Yarmysh posted video on Twitter of aides in gloves packing up items left in the hotel room in plastic bags.

“It was decided to take everything that could be hypothetically useful and hand it over to doctors in Germany,” Navalny’s aides said in a statement.

“It was obvious from the start that the Russian leadership would deny poisoning and the law enforcement authorities would not open a criminal probe and carry out an investigation,” Yarmysh said.

The video shows a hotel employee telling the aides not to remove items without police permission, while they refuse to comply.

– Security cameras –

Russia’s Proyekt news site published a detailed investigation on Thursday, citing Navalny’s aides.

It wrote that the water bottle was important evidence for German experts because Novichok would have remained intact while it was broken down in Navalny’s body.

One of Novichok’s creators, Vladimir Uglev, told the site that Navalny’s survival meant it was likely he only had skin contact with the poison, suggesting it was not in the water.

Proyekt found that the door to Navalny’s room was in view of security cameras and transport police, who are carrying out a pre-investigation check into the circumstances have the footage.

Despite this, a month later, “a criminal probe has still not been opened,” Yarmysh complained.

The anti-corruption campaigner’s suspected poisoning has sparked condemnation from Western leaders, who have called for a thorough investigation.

– Ambitious sanctions –

The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a non-binding resolution urging the EU to impose “ambitious” sanctions and accusing Russia of systematically targeting the opposition with “political assassinations and poisonings”.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday that EU proposals to impose sanctions in Navalny’s name were “manifestly anti-Russian”.

Russia has dismissed “unsubstantiated claims” over the incident and said its doctors found no trace of toxins.

Germany has not released details of the evidence for Navalny’s poisoning with nerve agent.

The global chemical weapons watchdog said Thursday that it had sent experts to Germany to collect samples from Navalny and test results were “forthcoming”.

The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said designated laboratories would assess biomedical samples and pass the results to Germany.

AFP

No Middle East Peace Without Solving ‘Palestinian Problem,’ Says Russia

File photo: The State of Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the U.N. General Assembly at the United Nations on September 20, 2017 in New York, New York. Kevin Hagen / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

 

Russia said on Thursday it would be a “mistake” to think lasting peace in the Middle East could be secured without resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The foreign ministry statement came after Israel normalised relations with long-time foes Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates at the White House on Tuesday.

Russia said it noted “progress” in the normalisation of ties between Israel and several Arab countries but said that “the Palestinian problem remains acute.”

“It would be a mistake to think that without finding a solution to it that it will be possible to secure lasting stabilisation in the Middle East.”

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied meddling in US elections.
File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied meddling in US elections.

 

Moscow urged regional and global players to “ramp up coordinated efforts” to solve the issue.

“Russia is ready for such joint work,” including in the framework of the diplomatic Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators and in close coordination with the Arab League, the foreign ministry said.

US President Donald Trump has said similar US-brokered deals are close between the Jewish state and several other nations, including Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain and the UAE are the first Arab nations to establish relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas said Tuesday that only an Israeli withdrawal from its occupied territories could bring peace to the Middle East.

AFP

Russian Police Seek To Interview Navalny In Germany

(L-R) Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Vasily MAXIMOV /POOL / AFP

 

Russian police said Friday they were seeking to question opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Berlin after Moscow rubbished Germany’s declaration that he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

The 44-year-old Kremlin critic and anti-corruption campaigner fell ill after boarding a plane in Siberia and was hospitalised there before being flown to Berlin.

Germany said there was “unequivocal evidence” that he was poisoned with the nerve agent but Russia says its doctors found no trace of poison.

The Siberian transport police, who have been retracing Navalny’s movements, said in a statement Russia would be preparing a request for its officers and an “expert” to shadow German investigators.

Navalny is now out of a medically induced coma and reacting to speech, according to the Berlin Charite hospital.

Russia said it wanted its officers to be present as “German colleagues carry out investigative activities with Navalny, medics and experts” and ask “clarifying and additional questions.”

The Kremlin has denounced attempts to blame the Russian state for the poisoning as “absurd” and said it wants to know what happened.

Western politicians have said the incident appears likely to have been state-ordered and urged Moscow to prove its lack of involvement.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday there was a “substantial chance” the order to poison the dissident “came from senior Russian officials”, a claim the Kremlin slammed as “unacceptable”.

On Friday, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun voiced outrage Russia had not acted quickly over the use of a chemical weapon against a Russian citizen.

In this file photo taken on July 20, 2019 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks with journalists during a rally to support opposition and independent candidates after authorities refused to register them for September elections to the Moscow City Duma, Moscow. Maxim ZMEYEV / AFP
In this file photo taken on July 20, 2019 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks with journalists during a rally to support opposition and independent candidates after authorities refused to register them for September elections to the Moscow City Duma, Moscow. Maxim ZMEYEV / AFP

 

“It is unbelievable to us that this would happen on the territory of any country and the government would not react with urgency to investigate and hold accountable those who committed the crime,” he told reporters.

Navalny’s associates believe the use of Novichok shows only the Russian state could be responsible.

The case has prompted international calls for Russia to carry out a transparent investigation or risk sanctions, but the country has not opened a criminal investigation.

“We don’t like it when other countries dictate to us what legal procedures we should start and when,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday.

He insisted Russia “de facto” is probing the incident, but cannot open a criminal case “on the basis of tests by the German side, especially when carried out in German military labs.”

Siberian transport police have been conducting a “check” into what happened and on Friday published some findings on Navalny’s activities in the city of Tomsk, the last place he visited before falling ill.

Wine and cocktail

They identified the hotel where Navalny stayed and a restaurant where he drank “wine and an alcoholic cocktail”.

They confirmed that he visited the “Vienna Coffeehouse” at Tomsk airport, where supporters suspect he might have been poisoned with a cup of tea.

The police also said they had questioned all those accompanying Navalny except for one woman who “lives permanently in Britain”. Police referred to Maria Pevchikh, an employee of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, but incorrectly gave her name as Marina.

Transport police would not normally handle major crimes and one of those they questioned, Navalny’s ally Georgy Alburov, tweeted that police asked him only: “Did you see anything unusual?”

Police said they were working to trace passengers on the flight from Tomsk to Moscow where Navalny fell ill on August 20.

Navalny had been visiting Siberia to help activists prepare for a tactical voting campaign during nationwide regional elections that began Friday and end Sunday.

 

‘Hiding’ data

Russia has repeatedly complained that Germany has not answered a request by its prosecutors to see the medical data that led to the declaration that Navalny had been poisoned with Novichok.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov questioned why Germany “hides (the data) so carefully”, accusing it of failing to provide detailed information to the OPCW global chemical weapons watchdog.

The Berlin prosecutor’s office said it had received instructions from the justice department to respond to Moscow’s request for legal assistance and provide information on Navalny’s health — “provided he consents.”

 

 

AFP

Questions Over Russia Vaccine Study ‘Inconsistencies’

This handout picture taken on August 6, 2020 and provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund shows the vaccine against the coronavirus disease, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Handout / Russian Direct Investment Fund / AFP
This handout picture taken on August 6, 2020 and provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund shows the vaccine against the coronavirus disease, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Handout / Russian Direct Investment Fund / AFP.

 

The Lancet medical journal said Thursday it had asked authors of a study on a potential Russian Covid-19 vaccine for clarifications after their research came under scrutiny.

Russia announced last month that its vaccine, named “Sputnik V” after the Soviet-era satellite that was the first launched into space in 1957, had already received approval.

This raised concerns among Western scientists over a lack of safety data, with some warning that moving too quickly on a vaccine could be dangerous.

Russian researchers published their trial findings last week in the Lancet, meaning their research had undergone review from a selection of their peers.

It said that the vaccine had proven to be “safe and well-tolerated” among a few dozen volunteers.

However, an open letter signed this week by more than 30 Europe-based experts cast doubt on the findings, pointing towards “potential data inconsistencies”.

The researchers identified what they said appeared to be a number of duplications in figures presented and concluded that the data within the study was “highly unlikely” to be correct.

The lead study author was quoted Thursday by Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency saying he rejected the letter’s claims.

A spokeswoman for The Lancet told AFP that they were aware of the open letter.

“We have shared the letter directly with the authors and encouraged them to engage in the scientific discussion,” she said.

The spokeswoman added that the research had been reviewed by independent experts before publication.

The pandemic has seen an unprecedented mobilisation of funding and research to rush through a vaccine that can protect billions of people worldwide.

Pharma giant AstraZeneca said this week it was halting Phase 3 trials of its candidate vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, after one volunteer fell ill.

AFP

Navalny ‘Disinformation’ Being Used For New Sanctions, Says Russia

In this file photo taken on January 16, 2018 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny smiles during an interview with AFP at the office of his Anti-corruption Foundation (FBK) in Moscow. Mladen ANTONOV / AFP
In this file photo taken on January 16, 2018 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny smiles during an interview with AFP at the office of his Anti-corruption Foundation (FBK) in Moscow. Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

 

 

Moscow said on Wednesday a “disinformation campaign” over the alleged poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny was being used to promote new sanctions against Russia.

Moscow released a statement after the Group of Seven foreign ministers demanded on Tuesday that Russia quickly find and prosecute those behind Navalny’s suspected poisoning, which Germany says was carried out with a Novichok nerve agent.

The “ongoing massive disinformation campaign” aims at “mobilising sanctions sentiment” and has nothing to do with Navalny’s health or “finding out the genuine reasons for his hospitalisation”, the Russian foreign ministry said.

In its statement in response to the G7, the foreign ministry also reiterated accusations that Germany, where Navalny was evacuated, has been refusing to share its findings on his case with Moscow.

“Unfounded attacks on Russia are continuing,” the ministry said, with a “whipping up of hysteria” around the case.

The top diplomats from the major industrial democracies said that Germany briefed them with confirmation that President Vladimir Putin’s leading critic was poisoned.

The statement was released by the United States and included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 9, 2018 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference with Chinese politburo member Yang Jiechi and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe during the US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department in Washington, DC. - The United States said July 9, 2020 it would refuse visas for three top Chinese officials and their families over the "horrific and systematic abuses" against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the officials who would be refused entry include Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party secretary for the Xinjiang region who is considered an architect of Beijing's hardline policies on minorities. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
In this file photo taken on November 9, 2018 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference with Chinese politburo member Yang Jiechi and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe during the US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department in Washington, DC.  (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

 

The other G7 nations are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. Russia was expelled from the then Group of Eight over its 2014 takeover of Crimea from Ukraine.

Navalny, a 44-year-old lawyer who has been Putin’s leading critic, suddenly fell seriously ill last month as he took a flight in Siberia.

The Berlin hospital treating him said Monday that he was out of a medically induced coma and reacting to speech.

AFP

UN Urges ‘Independent’ Russian Probe Of Navalny Poisoning

 

In this file photo taken on July 20, 2019 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks with journalists during a rally to support opposition and independent candidates after authorities refused to register them for September elections to the Moscow City Duma, Moscow. Maxim ZMEYEV / AFP
In this file photo taken on July 20, 2019 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks with journalists during a rally to support opposition and independent candidates after authorities refused to register them for September elections to the Moscow City Duma, Moscow. Maxim ZMEYEV / AFP.

 

The UN rights chief called Tuesday on Moscow to conduct or cooperate with a “thorough, transparent, independent and impartial investigation” into the alleged nerve agent attack on Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Michelle Bachelet stressed the need to get to the bottom of the poisoning, after German specialists said they had “unequivocal proof” that the weapons-grade nerve agent Novichok was used in the attack.

“It is incumbent on the Russian authorities to fully investigate who was responsible for this crime, a very serious crime that was committed on Russian soil,” she said in a statement.

The 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner and one of President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a domestic flight last month and was treated in a Siberian hospital before being evacuated to Berlin.

The attack marked the latest in a long line of assassination attempts against Putin’s critics.

Bachelet stressed Tuesday that “the number of cases of poisoning, or other forms of targeted assassination, of current or former Russian citizens, either within Russia itself or on foreign soil, over the past two decades is profoundly disturbing.”

“And the failure in many cases to hold perpetrators accountable and provide justice for the victims or their families, is also deeply regrettable and hard to explain or justify,” she said.

– ‘Numerous questions’ –

Germany said last week that toxicology tests conducted by its armed forces found “unequivocal evidence” that Navalny had been poisoned with the weapons-grade nerve agent Novichok, the substance used in the 2018 attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury.

Navalny’s associates say the use of Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, shows that only the Russian state could be responsible, but the Kremlin fiercely denies any involvement.

Russia had likewise rejected any link to the Skripal case, as well as the death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with highly radioactive polonium-210 at a hotel in the British capital.

While UN rights office said that they were not in a position to make direct accusations against Moscow in the case, Bachelet noted that nerve agents and radioactive isotopes such as Novichok and Polonium-210 were sophisticated substances that are very hard to get hold of.

“This raises numerous questions,” she said. “Why use substances like these? Who is using them? How did they acquire them?”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also pointed out that prior to Navalny’s alleged poisoning, he had repeatedly been harassed, arrested and assaulted either by authorities or by unknown assailants.

“Navalny was clearly someone who needed state protection, even if he was a political thorn in the side of the government,” she said.

“It is not good enough to simply deny he was poisoned, and deny the need for a thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into this assassination attempt,” she said.

AFP

Merkel Not Ruling Out Nord Stream Fallout Over Navalny

In this file photo taken on July 20, 2019 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny addresses demonstrators during a rally to support opposition and independent candidates after authorities refused to register them for September elections to the Moscow City Duma, Moscow.  Maxim ZMEYEV / AFP

 

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not rule out consequences for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project if Russia fails to thoroughly investigate opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s poisoning, her spokesman said Monday.

Asked whether Merkel would protect the multi-billion-euro pipeline from Russia to Europe if Germany were to seek sanctions over the Navalny case, spokesman Steffen Seibert said: “The chancellor believes it would be wrong to rule anything out from the start.”

Nord Stream 2, a 10-billion-euro ($11-billion) pipeline near completion beneath the Baltic Sea, is set to double Russian natural-gas shipments to Germany, Europe’s largest economy.

It has long been in the crosshairs of the United States, which has criticised European countries for their reliance on energy from Russia.

US President Donald Trump has signed legislation that targets contractors working on the project, meaning that German companies face sanctions for even small investments.

“Sure,” said Trump when asked at a White House news conference Monday whether he thought Germany should cancel the project.

“I’ve been supportive of that. I was the first one that brought it up.”

But he did not know if Germany was in a position to do so right now, he added, “because Germany is in a very weakened position energy-wise”.

 

File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin (R), talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) and US President Donald Trump as they attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on November 11, 2018 as part of commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I. ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP

 

Even within the European Union, there are voices against the pipeline.

Poland and other former Eastern Bloc states are wary of the EU becoming too reliant on Moscow, while non-EU member Ukraine fears that the new pipeline would cut it out of the gas supply business and allow Moscow to ratchet up pressure.

Despite its political differences with Russia, Germany thinks Nord Stream 2 will ensure a more stable and cleaner source of energy as it pivots away from coal and nuclear power.

As well as Russian giant Gazprom, which has a majority stake, the international consortium involved in the Nord Stream 2 project includes huge European players like Germany’s Wintershall and Uniper groups, the Dutch-British Shell, France’s Engie and Austria’s OMV.

AFP

UK Says Russian State Link Likely In Navalny Poisoning

Britain’s Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State Dominic Raab delivers a speech on the first day of the annual Conservative Party conference at the Manchester Central convention complex in Manchester, north-west England on September 29, 2019. Conservative party MPs and activists gathered Sunday for what could be its final conference before an election, promising to “get Brexit done”. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Britain on Sunday said Russia had “a very serious set of questions to answer” about the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, suggesting some form of state involvement in the high-profile case.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was “clear” the Kremlin critic was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, which was previously used in an attack against a Russian former double agent in Salisbury, southwest England, in 2018.

Germany, where Navalny is being treated after falling ill last month, has said there was “unequivocal evidence” of the use of the agent but Moscow has said there was no proof of poisoning.

“It’s very difficult, when it comes to the question of attribution, to think of a plausible explanation of being anyone other than some emanation of the Russian state, simply because Novichok is hard to get your hands on, hard to control,” Raab told Sky News television.

“And so what is clear right now is that Russian government has a very serious set of questions to answer.”

Raab spoke to his German counterpart Heiko Mass on Thursday and said Britain would work with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to push Russia for answers.

The probe would establish whether there was state involvement, he said, calling the use of chemical weapons “abhorrent” and “pure gangsterism”.

British relations with Russia have been strained since the attempted murder, allegedly by Russian agents, of former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury two years ago.

READ ALSO: Russia Accuses Germany Of Stalling Navalny Probe

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, survived the attack, in which Novichok was thought to have been smeared on a door handle at their home in the city.

A police officer also fell ill and recovered but one woman died four months later after coming into contact with a perfume bottle thought to have contained the chemical weapon.

The attack came 12 years after Russia was suspected of being behind the radiation poisoning death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London. Russia denied involvement in both attacks.

London earlier this year accused Russia-linked hackers of attempting to steal coronavirus vaccine research from UK, US and Canadian labs, and of trying to interfere in last year’s general election.

It also slapped sanctions on 25 Russians for their alleged involvement in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in jail in 2009 after uncovering alleged large-scale tax fraud by Russian officials.

AFP

Russia Accuses Germany Of Stalling Navalny Probe

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 14, 2018 A police cordon surrounds the area near a bench covered in a protective tent at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, southern England, on March 14, 2018, where a man and woman were found critically ill on March 4, after being apparently poisoned with what was later identified as a nerve agent sparking a major incident.  (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

 

Russia on Sunday accused Germany of stalling efforts to probe opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s case after Berlin demanded Moscow provide an explanation over his poisoning or face sanctions.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused German authorities of failing to respond to a request by Russian prosecutors sent on August 27.

She spoke after German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Russia must soon provide an explanation over Navalny’s poisoning with Novichok, a banned nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union.

“Dear Mr Maas, if the German government is sincere in its statements then it should be interested in preparing a response to a request of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office as soon as possible,” Zakharova said.

“So far we are not certain that Germany is not playing a double game,” she added. “Where is the ‘urgency’ you are insisting upon?

“By not sending its answer, Berlin is stalling the process of investigation for which it’s calling. On purpose?”

Germany, the current head of the European Union, will discuss possible sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top foe if the Kremlin does not provide an explanation soon, Maas said Sunday.

READ ALSO: German Foreign Minister Threatens Sanctions Over Navalny Poisoning

Navalny fell ill on a flight last month and was treated in a Siberian hospital before being evacuated to Berlin.

Germany said last week there was “unequivocal evidence” that the Russian opposition leader had been poisoned using Novichok.

“If in the coming days Russia does not help clarify what happened, we will be compelled to discuss a response with our allies,” Maas told German daily Bild.

Any sanctions decided should be “targeted”, he added.

Western leaders and many Russians have expressed horror at what Navalny’s allies say is the first known use of chemical weapons against a high-profile opposition leader on Russian soil.

Earlier this week Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia had “nothing to hide” and the Kremlin said Russian doctors had found no proof Navalny was poisoned.

AFP

Russia’s COVID-19 Vaccine Shows Signs Of Success In Early Trials

Enbal Sabag, a Nurse Practitioner, prepares a flu vaccination for a patient at the CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinic on September 03, 2020 in Key Biscayne, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP
Enbal Sabag, a Nurse Practitioner, prepares a flu vaccination for a patient at the CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinic on September 03, 2020, in Key Biscayne, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

 

Patients involved in early tests of a Russian coronavirus vaccine developed antibodies with “no serious adverse events”, according to research published in The Lancet Friday, but experts said the trials were too small to prove safety and effectiveness.

Russia announced last month that its vaccine, named “Sputnik V” after the Soviet-era satellite that was the first launched into space in 1957, had already received approval.

This raised concerns among Western scientists over a lack of safety data, with some warning that moving too quickly on a vaccine could be dangerous.

Russia denounced criticism as an attempt to undermine Moscow’s research.

In the Lancet study, Russian researchers reported on two small trials, each involving 38 healthy adults aged between 18 and 60, who were given a two-part immunisation.

Each participant was given a dose of the first part of the vaccine and then given a booster with the second part 21 days later.

They were monitored over 42 days and all developed antibodies within the first three weeks.

The report said the data showed that the vaccine was “safe, well-tolerated, and does not cause serious adverse events in healthy adult volunteers”.

The trials were open label and not randomised, meaning there was no placebo and the participants knew they were receiving the vaccine and were not randomly assigned to different treatment groups.

Researchers underlined that larger and longer trials — including a placebo comparison — would be needed to establish the long-term safety and effectiveness of the vaccine for preventing Covid-19 infection.

The report said the 76 participants of these trials would be monitored up to 180 days, adding that a more rigorous phase 3 clinical trial was planned with the involvement of 40,000 volunteers “from different age and risk groups”.

‘Safety is paramount’

Naor Bar-Zeev of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study, said the research was “encouraging but small”, adding that it did not give any data on effectiveness among older age groups, who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.

“Showing safety will be crucial with Covid-19 vaccines, not only for vaccine acceptance but also for trust in vaccination broadly,” he said in a commentary in the Lancet.

“Since vaccines are given to healthy people and, during the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially to everyone after approval following phase 3 trials, safety is paramount.”

The pandemic has seen an unprecedented mobilisation of funding and research to rush through a vaccine that can protect billions of people worldwide.

This week the US urged states to get ready for a potential Covid-19 vaccine rollout two days before the presidential election in November, sparking concerns President Donald Trump’s administration is accelerating research to fit a political timetable.

Russia has said that industrial production of its version is expected from September.

President Vladimir Putin said in early August that the vaccine gave “sustainable immunity” and that one of his own daughters had been inoculated, even though Russia’s health ministry said clinical trials were not yet complete.

The World Health Organization has urged Russia to follow established guidelines and go “through all the stages” necessary to develop a safe vaccine.

Sputnik V was developed by the Gamaleya research institute for epidemiology and microbiology in Moscow in coordination with the Russian defence ministry.

It uses a cold-causing adenovirus, which is then modified and combined with a part of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

The report’s lead author, Denis Logunov of Gamaleya, said the adenovirus vaccine enters people’s cells and delivers the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein genetic code, helping the immune system “recognise and attack” the virus.

 

AFP

Russia Presents COVID-19 Vaccine To Nigeria

L-R: The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire receives the aide-memoire from the Russian Ambassador to Nigeria, Alexey Shebarshin. Photo: [email protected] Ministry of Health.

 

The Nigerian Government has received the samples of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Russia’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Alexey Shebarshin gave the samples of the COVID-19 vaccine to the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire during a visit to the Ministry in Abuja on Friday.

The Russian Ambassador also handed over to the Minister an aide memoire which gives details about the vaccine to help the Nigerian Government conduct further research on it.

 

“We are exploring all knowledge in terms of therapeutics and vaccines,” the Ministry quoted Ehanire as saying.

“We are expressing our interest in the COVID-19 vaccine so that we will have the opportunity to work elaborately.”

He explained that the country has been taking part in a series of knowledge exchange and contact with several research bodies and nations in a bid to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ehanire noted that the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Nigeria for the right of access, immediately the Russian COVID-19 vaccine was announced.

The Director of Hospital Services Department in the Ministry, Dr Adepimpe Adebiyi who was also present at the event said it is an opportunity to expand Nigeria’s vaccine production.

“The technical officers will interphase with the #Russian team in order to strengthen the relationship between Nigeria and Russia,” he said.

‘No Serious Adverse Events’

Russia had on August 11th, 2020, announced that it had developed the vaccine which has now shown some signs of success in early trials.

Patients involved in early tests of the vaccine developed antibodies with “no serious adverse events”, according to research published in The Lancet Friday, but experts said the trials were too small to prove safety and effectiveness.

Russia announced last month that its vaccine, named “Sputnik V” after the Soviet-era satellite that was the first launched into space in 1957, had already received approval.

This raised concerns among Western scientists over a lack of safety data, with some warning that moving too quickly on a vaccine could be dangerous.

Russia denounced criticism as an attempt to undermine Moscow’s research.

 

 

 

 

Russia’s COVID-19 Cases Surpass 1 Million As Students Return To School

Medical workers transport a woman into a hospital where patients infected with the COVID-19 novel coronavirus are being treated in the settlement of Kommunarka outside Moscow on April 27, 2020. Alexander NEMENOV / AFP.

 

Russia surpassed the one million mark in total coronavirus cases on Tuesday as students throughout the country returned to classrooms on the first day of the new school year.

Health officials reported 4,729 new confirmed infections, bringing the total to 1,000,048 — the world’s fourth-largest caseload after the United States, Brazil and India.

President Vladimir Putin was expected to address some 17 million students and more than 1.5 million teachers in an online lesson on World War II.

Schools across Europe are reopening despite the worries of many parents and teachers that the move could accelerate the spread of Covid-19 after leaders said their countries had beaten back the virus and eased restrictions.

Putin has repeatedly said that Russia has passed peak infections and the government eased most restrictions in June ahead of large World War II commemorations and a national vote on a new constitution.

The government’s anti-virus information website said this week that children would not be required to wear masks in the classroom, cafeterias or during lunch breaks.

But pupils will have their temperature checked on arrival, the head of the consumer watchdog Anna Popova said, adding that “no one can go to school if they are feeling even slightly unwell”.

In Moscow, the epicentre of Russia’s outbreak, masks are compulsory for teachers and recommended for students.

All school staff in the capital have been tested for coronavirus, the authorities have said.

Putin announced last month that Russia had become the first country to register a coronavirus vaccine, but scientists and the World Health Organization said it still needed a rigorous safety review.

Russia has registered 17,299 virus deaths, a low figure compared to other countries hit hard by the pandemic.

Critics have cast doubt on the low official mortality rate and accused authorities of under-reporting to play down the scale of the crisis.

Officials insist the low fatality count is down to a campaign of mass testing, which has identified many coronavirus cases with mild or no symptoms.

AFP