Russia has dove into colossal spending to get corrupt journalists and experts, who have lost their credibility, to spread a good word about their corona drug.
It is fundamentally important for Russian propaganda to make an impression that their Sputnik V outplays international rivals and enjoys mad global demand.
In fact, the campaign promoting the drug that hasn't even completed clinical trials, at the same time raising concerns over dangerous side effects and ambiguous stability and efficacy, chose to snub any scientific data or fantastic results (there are none), opting for bribery of media pundits and aggressive spins. In some cases, however, zealous efforts of Russian propaganda managers lead to embarrassing confusion, as was the case with The New York Times.
In early January, the newspaper's Moscow-based correspondent, Andrew Kramer, got himself a Russian jab, claiming he intends to dispel mistrust of the Russian vaccine, at the same time praising Moscow's unique experience in vaccine development that stems from Soviet times. Naturally, Russian media overwhelmingly applauded the move: "Hey, look, here's an American guy, who's not afraid to get inoculated with the Russian drug. Breaking news!"
Meanwhile, less than a month into the release of Kramer's report, the same newspaper, The New York Times, publishes a piece entitled "Russian campaign promotes home-grown vaccine and cuts competitors", exposing Russia's efforts to compromise foreign-made vaccines, spreading fake news and manipulating data. The campaigns mainly target audiences in Latin America, especially in Mexico and Argentina.
So much for the integrity of the Moscow-based reporter… After all, after such a critical piece, the earlier material by Comrade Kramer looks ridiculous. Who knows, perhaps someone in Russia somehow convinced the journo that the Russian vaccine was a blast…
As for the Spanish-speaking target audiences, I came upon a rather interesting case involving a fake story which Russian media circulated referring to an acclaimed Le Monde, which Russians claimed stated that it's only Sputnik-V that can save Europe from corona.
In fact, it turned out that the laudatory column was penned by some guy Federico Cuxo for an Argentine-based mirror site Eldiplo.org, which mostly duplicates in Spanish the content authored by Le Monde Diplomatique. Over half of the site's content is pretty much about praising Russia's foreign policy, Vladimir Putin personally, and more recently, the Russian vaccine.
Incidentally, literally the other day, a popular health outlet Lancet tried to hop on the hype train, once again publishing an overly praising piece on the Russian vaccine. The international medical community, however, just as last year, raised a question about the reliability of data published, although Lancet's editors, who had earlier been caught on other manipulative stunts, never delivered a more detailed report to back their initial article.
One can only guess how humongous Russia's budgets are for promotion campaigns employing greedy journalists and editors, including of what can already be called compromised media platforms...
At the same time, it should be clear that Russia receives no financial benefit from the said campaigns whatsoever. The thing is, the country lacks sufficient production capacities even to cover domestic demand, let alone stable exports. So it appears that these massive PR efforts boil down to tickling someone's ego rather than doing a job they're supposed to do, which is help the government sell their product.
And now a cherry on the cake. Immediately following a military coup organized by friends of the Russian defense chief Sergei Shoigu, exactly after he visited the country, Sputnik-V was greenlighted for use. What a coincidence, right? While some might think it was a win for the Russian campaign, I believe this is a major embarrassment.
Fortunately, in Ukraine, lobbyists for Sputnik V, including Putin's crony Viktor Medvedchuk and a pro-Russian political force OPZZh have badly failed their mission – that's despite wasting plenty of money, including that of Russian taxpayers, for the past six months, trying in vain to lobby the Russian drug, even in the format of local production.
On the other hand, it is really encouraging that pretty much no one endorses the Russian vaccine, trying to avoid it. At the same time, those willing to approve it are either directly subordinate to Russia (Belarus and Serbia) or get hefty kickbacks to this end (Hungary).