MOSCOW, 4 August (BelTA - China Daily) - Western nations should stop politicizing the effort to find the origins of the coronavirus, as their disregard of science can bring devastating consequences for the global fight against the pandemic, Russian officials and experts said.
At the Informal Economic Leaders' Retreat of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in early July, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the international community to join forces in the fight against COVID-19 and speed up global vaccination efforts while reviving the economy.
At a news conference following a meeting of foreign ministers from the BRICS group of nations in June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said politicians "shouldn't strive to score points and increase their popularity by speculating about the COVID-19 situation".
Prominent Russian virologists and researchers agree with this stance and have pointed to the natural origin of the virus that causes COVID-19.
"All studies show that the virus mutates naturally. All the changes within it are natural, at least they completely fit into the mutation scheme that is known in virology," said Larisa Popovich, director of the Institute for Health Economics at Russia's National Research University Higher School of Economics.
Some new research that suggests otherwise may not be devoid of political overtones, she added.
Dmitry Lvov, a Russian virologist and expert at the World Health Organization, said many of discussions about the origins of COVID-19 are not conducted by specialists and professionals in the field, but by politicians that try to pursue their own interests.
"It is difficult for me to comprehend the actions and statements that come from the WHO. Different kinds of people work there, and they are under great pressure, including from the United States," Lvov said.
Associated with bats
There is no doubt that the coronavirus has a natural origin, he said.
"I am a scientist. I don't believe hearsay. I only deal with facts. What I know is the antibodies of coronavirus have been found in people in many parts of the world before the outbreak," Lvov said, in referring to the period before the end of 2019.
In an interview with the Russia-24 news channel in May, he said coronaviruses are primarily associated with bats. "Someone could have been infected either in a room where a bat spent the night or in a cave where bats usually live in large numbers," he said.
"A person could have eaten some meat from animals that have ecological ties with bats, thus becoming the first source of infections."
Rinat Maksyutov, director-general of Russia's State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology Vector, also said Russian experts have no doubt about the natural origin of the novel coronavirus.
Western disinformation campaigns that promote the theory of a laboratory leak in the Chinese city of Wuhan not only hinder global antivirus efforts but are intended to deflect attention from other theories, international affairs analyst Mikhail Morozov said.
Morozov said it was striking that "studies asserting the man-made nature of the coronavirus began to appear as if on command", adding that evidence for a lab-leak theory was groundless and contradictory.
"All this suggests that the West tries to use every possibility to accuse China of spreading the infection, or at least they are using the global tragedy for their own political goals or to divert attention from other theories," Morozov said.