Which Russian Sources do Progressnews and Hotnews Conspiracy Theories about COVID-19 Rely On?

16 March, 2020

Russian politicians and experts keep disseminating conspiracy theories about the origins of coronavirus. This time, the Head of the Moscow Scientific Union of Therapists, Pavel Vorobyov, disseminated the conspiracy theory. The theory was later re-printed from Russian websites by Georgian online media outlets and Progressnews first published Vorobyov’s conspiracy theories with a title - “Russian Scientist: Coronavirus is a Bluff on a Global Scale”. The identical article, although with a different title – “Coronavirus: Worldwide Fake – Why do the Chinese Hide COVID-19 Strains and What Kind of Suspicions Exist around the ‘Deadly Virus’” – was published on March 11 by Hotnews as well. Both online media outlets shared the articles on their Facebook pages.


In the place where the name of the author should be, the article by Progressnews simply says “Progressnews”, which redirects to a Russian website Eurasia Daily. Hotnews indicates “Argumenty i Fakty” as the source, however, there is no link to the source article. “Argumenty i Fakty” published Vorobyov’s conspiracy theories on February 26, while Eurasia Daily published them on February 28.


Vorobyov propagates the following messages in the articles:

  1. COVID-19/SARS-CoV epidemies are fake and the panic around the viruses has been created artificially.
  2. Coronavirus has been invented with economic goals in mind and the epidemy/pandemic has been announced to sell more medicines.
  3. The dissemination of the virus is in the interests of the United States, as the crises in big countries would create a favorable environment for the latter.

Vorobyov disseminates these conspiracy theories based on SARS-CoV 2002 case. According to him, back then, the virus also spread in China. He claimed that the World Health Organization proclaimed the virus “fake” and fired high officials.

  1. The information about SARS-coronavirus is a lie and is connected to a conspiracy theory, disseminated in 2003 by Russian scientists Sergey Kolesnikov and Nikolay Filatov, who claimed that the virus had been created in the U.S. labs.
  2. In 2003, only two people were fired due to providing statistics with a delay or forging them - Zhang Wenkang (then the Health Minister of China) and (then Mayor of Beijing and the Deputy Party Secretary of Beijing).

Other Russian editions have also disseminated such conspiracy theories about coronavirus. The website of a show-business magazine “Teleprogramma” includes an article, published on February 10, titled: “A Perfect Con by Pharmacists: Directors Label Coronavirus a Part of a Global Conspiracy”


What do we know about the novel Coronavirus?

The new type of coronavirus causes respiratory disease symptoms among humans, including coughing, fever, and dyspnea. According to WHO, the novel coronavirus was initially recorded in Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019. Its dissemination has been associated with the wet market of seafood and live animals in Wuhan.

As WHO claims, the previous SARS type coronavirus was transferred from civets to humans, while MERS was transferred from camels. The origin of COVID-19 has not been scientifically confirmed yet.

In March 2020, WHO declared coronavirus a pandemic and according to them, the virus has been recorded in 134 countries around the globe. 

Prepared by Tamta Tavartkiladze and Tamar Khmidiashvili
Myth Detector Lab