Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova is criticizing news outlets for printing "disinformation" after The New York Times and Financial Times reported that the country's COVID-19 death toll could be considerably higher than what the Kremlin is reporting.
Zakharova also said the government had sent a letter to each outlet demanding a retraction.
The Russian government says just 642 people have died as a result of COVID-19 in Moscow, the country's largest city with a population of approximately 12 million.
But a number of published reports have put estimates higher.
The New York Times said it was confident in its report after it published a story quoting Tatiana Mikhailova, a senior researcher at the Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration in Moscow. She stated the death toll in Moscow may be "possibly almost three times higher than the official toll.”
“We’re confident in the accuracy of our material based on data published by an official government agency and interviews with experts from state institutions,” New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Ha told the state-run TASS news agency. “None of the facts in our article are disputed.”
Overall, Russia has reported more than 252,000 cases and 2,305 deaths, a relatively low number when compared to the U.S., where more than 85,000 people have died.
The Financial Times's reporting focused on a surge in deaths reported by authorities in the city of St. Petersburg, Russia's northern capital with a population of 5 million. Overall, according to the FT, Russia could have 70 percent more coronavirus deaths than the country is reporting.