China’s promotion of Russian disinformation indicates where its loyalties lie

By Simone McCarthy and CNN’s Beijing Bureau – 1h agoFollow

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In public statements and at international summits, Chinese officials have attempted to stake out a seemingly neutral position on the war in Ukraine, neither condemning Russian actions nor ruling out the possibility Beijing could act as a mediator in a push for peace.

© Ueslei Marcelino/ReutersRussian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping walk down the stairs as they arrive for a BRICS summit in Brasilia, Brazil in 2019.

But while its international messaging has kept many guessing as to Beijing’s true intentions, much of its domestic media coverage of Russia’s invasion tells a wholly different story.

There, an alternate reality is playing out for China’s 1.4 billion people, one in which the invasion is nothing more than a “special military operation,” according to its national broadcaster CCTV; the United States may be funding a biological weapons program in Ukraine, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is a victim standing up for a beleaguered Russia.

© STR/AFP/Getty ImagesResidents watch a TV screen showing news about Ukraine at a shopping mall in Hangzhou, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province on February 25, 2022.

To tell that story, major state-run news media outlets — which dominate China’s highly censored media space — have been largely echoing Russian state media stories or information from Russian officials.

A CNN analysis reviewed nearly 5,000 social media posts from 14 Chinese state media outlets during the first eight days of Russia’s invasion posted onto China’s Twitter-like platform, Weibo. The analysis found that of the more than 300 most-shared posts about the events in Ukraine — which were each shared more than 1,000 times — almost half, about 140, were what CNN classified as distinctly pro-Russian, often containing information attributed to a Russian official or picked up directly from Russia’s state media.

© Kevin Frayer/Getty ImagesA large Ukrainian flag with the slogan “We Stand With Ukraine” written on it in Chinese characters is seen on the outside wall of the Canadian Embassy on March 1, 2022 in Beijing, China.

The analysis, which focused on stories that got the most play on social media, may not be representative of all posts shared by state media outlets on Weibo. But it provides a snapshot of the state media-produced information that is most visible to the more than half a billion monthly users on the popular platform.

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It’s not clear the extent to which these posts may be explicitly the result of a coordinated propaganda campaign between the two countries, but it is consistent with an ongoing pattern in which Russian and Chinese media have amplified and reinforced their often-interchangeable talking points on issues such as the treatment of Russian dissidents, Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, or the supposed American role in fomenting “color revolutions” against authoritarian regimes.

Such mutual reinforcement has also spilled over into the extensive overseas and English-language propaganda operations that both countries have built to promote their views globally — a route made more important with Russia’s state media outlets being banned on air and online in parts of the West.

In China’s top-down government-controlled media environment, all state-affiliated content is vetted and issued in accordance with government directives. That China has chosen to follow Russia’s lead in deliberately mischaracterizing the war only serves to underline Beijing’s closeness to Moscow — and almost makes a mockery of China’s self-proclaimed impartiality in helping to engage with Russia and bring an end to the violence.

© Roman Pilipey/EPA/ShutterstockChinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at a daily media briefing in Beijing, China, March 19, 2021.

The playbook

Russian assurances that civilian sites will not be targeted — despite extensive evidence to the contrary, descriptions of Ukrainian soldiers using “Nazi” tactics, and misinformation regarding the whereabouts of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are all stories that have been funneled from Russian sources into China’s enclosed social media ecosystem — where many Western news outlets are blocked — by its state media outlets in recent days.

That dynamic was at play on Monday morning, when China’s state broadcaster CCTV released a package in its morning newscast highlighting Moscow’s erroneous claim that Washington had funded the development of biological weapons in Ukrainian labs. That insinuation is used to support the narrative that Ukraine — characterized by Moscow as an American puppet state — threatens Russia, and not the other way around.

The source? Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov, who on Sunday said Russian forces uncovered “evidence” of the “hasty measures to conceal any traces of the military biological program finance(d) by the US Department of Defense,” and referenced documents he said detailed the destruction of hazardous pathogens at these facilities on the order of the Ukrainian Health Ministry.

In a statement on Twitter Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki pushed back on “Russia’s false claims about alleged US biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine” and noted the “echoing” of those “conspiracy theories” by Chinese officials.

“This is preposterous. It’s the kind of disinformation operation we’ve seen repeatedly from the Russians over the years in Ukraine and in other countries, which have been debunked, and an example of the types of false pretexts we have been warning the Russians would invent,” Psaki said, adding that the US was “in full compliance” with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention and “does not develop or possess such weapons anywhere.”

“Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them. It’s a clear pattern,” Psaki said.

The subject was also raised in a Senate hearing on Tuesday, when Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, asked if Ukraine had biological weapons, said it has biological research facilities, which the US was concerned Russian forces may be seeking to control.

“We are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces, should they approach,” Nuland said.

Minutes after the CCTV report aired, an affiliated news outlet released an online post repeating the claims from Russia’s Defense Ministry and started a related hashtag on Weibo, which began trending. The hashtag was viewed more than 45 million times over a period of hours that day.

The next day, after Russia doubled down on the biological weapons claims with further statements, without evidence, CCTV released a new television segment, which was again shared by prominent state media outlets on Weibo, gaining further traction.

The story then moved into the narrative of China’s officials when a state media reporter at a regular Foreign Ministry press briefing asked a question about the laboratories, prompting the spokesperson to read a lengthy prepared response that repeated Russian disinformation.

“We once again urge the US to fully clarify its biological militarization activities both inside and outside its borders and accept multilateral verification,” spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.

Within hours, at least 17 state media outlets, including CCTV, Xinhua, and the People’s Daily, posted Zhao’s response on Weibo, where the topic racked up more than 210 million views. A related hashtag rose to be the top trending topic on Weibo by the following afternoon.

The pattern is just one example of a playbook that enables China to cover the war through the lens of Russian rhetoric and disinformation. Other examples include stories, such as repeated false claims that Zelensky fled the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv — sourced to a single Russian lawmaker, which were picked up and amplified by both Chinese and Russian state media outlets on their domestic and international platforms.

A CNN analysis sought to understand how large a role such stories play in China’s tightly controlled media ecosystem, first by combing through nearly 5,000 social media posts from the Weibo accounts of 14 of China’s most influential state media outlets, focusing on the first eight days of the invasion and news about the events in Ukraine.

Next, CNN analyzed which of those posts were the most highly engaged with, identifying more than 300 posts shared on Weibo more than 1,000 times. Of those more than 300 posts, an analysis found that nearly half showed Russia in a positive light — a category CNN defined as news sourced solely from Russian officials or Russian media, content that describes Ukraine negatively, misinformation about Zelensky, or pro-Putin coverage.

While about 140 posts showed Russia in a positive light, the analysis identified fewer than 15 posts that portrayed Ukraine positively.

A look at other characterizations showed only around 90 of these posts were neutral — for example, purely factual reports from reliable sources, news about humanitarian aid or updates on the evacuation of Chinese citizens from Ukraine.

Just over a third were what CNN classified as anti-West or anti-US, for example: stories airing views that Russia was pushed to action in Ukraine by the expansion of NATO, or criticizing Western media coverage of the crisis.

CNN reporters classified some posts into more than one category. A look at the distribution shows posts that depicted Russia in a positive light were more frequent than any other category.

Because CNN only studied posts with high engagement, the findings may not be representative of all posts produced by state media.

In response to CNN’s request for comment, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Thursday the country is a victim of disinformation.

“Some anti-China forces and media have fabricated too many lies, rumors and disinformation about China on issues that include the situation in Ukraine,” it said in a statement. “They have smeared the image of China, poisoned the media environment and misled public worldwide. Such actions are hypocritical and despicable.”

The backdrop

The findings contrast the apparent middle line that China has tried to walk in its international diplomacy.

Though Beijing has stood apart from the Western response to Russia’s invasion, with its diplomats refusing to condemn the invasion, or even call it such, and decrying Western sanctions, it has also frequently repeated that “all countries’ legitimate security concerns” should be addressed.

In a virtual summit with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday, Chinese leader Xi Jinping called for negotiations to bring about “peaceful outcomes” and stressed China’s promises to contribute humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

“There is a difference between the way China talks to the international audience and the way it talks to the domestic audience … for the domestic audience, it’s important to preserve this partnership with Russia, because that’s a political priority for Xi,” said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow and the chair of the Russia in the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

He points to the increasingly close relationship between China and Russia in recent years, a strategic partnership strengthened, in part, by shared friction with the West.

“So (China’s leaders) need to shape public perceptions about this, and explain why dealing with Russia is morally justified or is the right thing to do — and (China’s media coverage) serves this purpose,” he said.

A glimpse into how China may seek to control its coverage was given in the days prior to the invasion, when an internal directive that was apparently accidentally shared on social media showed Chinese state media outlet Beijing News ordered its employees not to publish news reports that were “negative about Russia or pro-West.” Beijing News did not respond to requests for comment.

Maria Repnikova, director of the Center for Global Information Studies at Georgia State University, said Russia-leaning coverage was in line with historical precedent: “Stories that are critical of Russia or are portraying Russia in an unfavorable manner are generally censored,” she said.

“As a result of that, it is expedient to use Russian state media sources because they’re the ones portraying the (Ukraine) conflict with a more favorable eye or view from the Russian perspective,” she said.

Another sign of this has been which voices have been allowed to thrive on China’s heavily censored social media platforms in the wake of the invasion. There, pro-Russia and anti-Western, nationalistic voices have also dominated, while there has been a suppression of pro-Ukrainian or anti-war messages on platforms and across the media landscape.

One glaring example came Friday, when CCTV broadcast a speech from International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons, at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Paralympic Games, in which many parts of the speech were muffled and were not translated.

The offending context? Parsons’ “message of peace,” in which he did not name Russia or Ukraine but said he was “horrified at what is taking place in the world.”

Those voices from within China who have tried to speak up — including five history professors who penned an open letter voicing their strong opposition to “Russia’s war against Ukraine” — have seen their posts swiftly deleted or social accounts suspended.

“We have seen alternative, critical voices — some subtle critique or attempts to present scenes from the war zone and talk about humanity and empathy toward Ukraine — (but) a lot of these messages have been censored,” said Repnikova.

Social media platforms in China have taken action against extremist nationalist voices in recent weeks, with Sina Weibo “punishing” around 75 accounts and screening out more than 1,500 posts and video-streaming platform Douyin removing over 6,000 illegal videos, according to the state-owned Global Times. But the nationalistic voices that have dominated social media platforms fall in line with what Repnikova describes as “a significant spike in digital nationalism, (with) the US and the West (as) the key target of this nationalistic sentiment.”

Break the monopoly

That nationalist sentiment — fueled by a deep distrust of the US and concern about its role as the leading global power — are a critical part of the glue that has firmed up the Russian and Chinese relationship in recent years.

It’s also filtered in the kinds of media coverage that each have shared overseas, as both Russia and China have sought to deepen their propaganda efforts, launching social media-friendly news brands in English and other languages, like China’s CGTN and RT (formerly Russia Today).

While experts say it’s unclear if top media officials from the two countries are discussing news coverage at an operational level and some official coordination is more symbolic in nature, there is a growing push in recent years for alignment and content-sharing.

A number of content-sharing arrangements exist between Chinese and Russian media outlets, and the shared vision is clear: these outlets together can “break the monopoly of Western media,” as a Global Times report on a China-Russia media forum in 2015 put it.

Fast-forward to the crisis in Ukraine and the upside of that collaboration, for one partner anyway, is clear.

In the European Union, Kremlin-backed media outlets RT and Sputnik were officially banned as of last Wednesday, with companies like Meta, parent of Facebook and Instagram, and Google’s YouTube stepping in to block their content.

But, on China’s channels like CGTN and Global Times, which continue to operate, those Russian talking points are still getting through.

Already this week, posts from those accounts have suggested Ukraine and the US have pro-Nazi leanings, repeated Russian misinformation on the laboratories, and cited Russia denying that it plans to overthrow the existing government in its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Wild horses flourish in Chernobyl 35 years after explosion

Wild horses flourish in Chernobyl 35 years after explosion (

AFP  14 hrs ago

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Down an overgrown country road, three startled wild horses with rugged coats and rigid manes dart into the flourishing overgrowth of their unlikely nature reserve: the Chernobyl exclusion zone.a brown horse standing next to a forest: Przewalski's horses wander near a forest road in the Chernobyl zone© Sergei SUPINSKY Przewalski’s horses wander near a forest road in the Chernobyl zone

Thirty-five years after the world’s worst nuclear disaster — an anniversary commemorated in the ex-Soviet country on Monday — surging flora and fauna have taken over deserted tower blocks, shops and official buildings topped with communist icons.a large brown cow standing on top of a grass covered field: A potential candidate species for introduction to the Chernobyl area is the European bison© Jean Christophe VERHAEGEN A potential candidate species for introduction to the Chernobyl area is the European bison

Ukrainian authorities say the area maybe not be fit for humans for 24,000 years, but for now this breed of wild horse has thrived.

“It’s really a symbol of the reserve and even the exclusion zone in general,” said Denys Vyshnevsky, head of the scientific department of the Chernobyl nature reserve created in the area five years ago.a brown horse standing next to a forest: Chernobyl has also become a haven for elks, and other fauna including wolves© GENYA SAVILOV Chernobyl has also become a haven for elks, and other fauna including wolves

The explosion in the fourth reactor at the nuclear power plant in April, 26, 1986 left swathes of Ukraine and neighbouring Belarus badly contaminated and led to the creation of a no man’s land within a 30-kilometre (19-mile) radius of the station.

Dozens of villages and towns were evacuated, turning the area into a giant reserve unprecedented in Europe by its size.

More than three decades after the incident there has been an influx of visitors to the area, spurring officials to seek official status — and protection — from UNESCO.

– A ‘unique’ chance to save biodiversity –

Since the disaster, the area has become a haven for elk, wolves — and the stocky endangered breed of wild horse native to Asia, Przewalski’s horse.

The breed, named after Russian scientist Nikolai Przewalski who discovered it in the Asia expansive Gobi desert, became all but extinct by the middle of the 20th century, partially due to overhunting.a herd of cows walking down a dirt road: Przewalski's horses were at one time extinct in the wild but are now thriving in Chernobyl© Sergei SUPINSKY Przewalski’s horses were at one time extinct in the wild but are now thriving in Chernobyl

It was reintroduced by scientists to areas of Mongolia, China and Russia as part of preservation efforts.a herd of cattle grazing on a lush green field: Thirty-five years after the world's worst nuclear disaster surging flora and fauna have taken over deserted tower blocks© Aleksndr Sirota Thirty-five years after the world’s worst nuclear disaster surging flora and fauna have taken over deserted tower blocks

In a different program, 30 of the horses were released into the Chernobyl zone in 1998, replacing an extinct horse native to the region, the Tarpan.

The experiment in Ukraine was soon halted but the horses remained and now number around 150 in parts of the exclusion zone, with around another 60 over the border in Belarus.a large brown elephant walking through a forest: Down an overgrown country road, three startled wild horses with rugged coats and rigid manes dart into the flourishing overgrowth of their unlikely nature reserve: the Chernobyl exclusion zone.© Andriy PERUN Down an overgrown country road, three startled wild horses with rugged coats and rigid manes dart into the flourishing overgrowth of their unlikely nature reserve: the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

“Paradoxically, this is a unique opportunity to preserve biodiversity,” Vyshnevsky said.

Under the right conditions, the Ukrainian herd could eventually increase to 300 or even 500 animals, said Sergiy Zhyla, Senior Researcher, Chernobyl Biosphere Reserve.

Researchers at the Prague zoo participating in the conservation efforts now say the global population of Przewalski’s horses has grown to some 2,700.Play VideoWild horses flourish in Chernobyl 35 years after explosionClick to expand

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Following the success in Chernobyl, there is discussion over introducing other endangered species to Ukraine’s zone.

Vyshnevsky sees one potential candidate in the European bison — which already roams over the border in Belarus — and discussions are currently underway with the World Wildlife Fund, a global environmental NGO.

“We’ll be able to recreate the landscape that was here before humans began intensely exploiting the region,” he said.

Wild horses flourish in Chernobyl 35 years after explosion (


Russia warns U.S. to stay away for its “own good” as Ukraine standoff intensifies


APRIL 13, 2021 / 10:26 AM / CBS NEWS

Moscow — Russia warned the United States on Tuesday against sending warships to the Black Sea, urging American forces to stay away from the annexed Crimean peninsula “for their own good” as the situation along Ukraine’s border caused increasing concern in the West. The U.S. Secretary of State, meeting with Ukrainian and NATO officials in Brussels, made it clear that the Biden administration, along with its allies in Europe, has Ukraine’s back and considers Russia’s ongoing military buildup in the region “very provocative.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Friday that Washington had informed Ankara that two U.S. warships would pass through Turkish waters this week to be deployed in the Black Sea. The deployment would come amid a significant escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukraine’s forces, which have U.S. and European support.

Hostilities first flared in 2014 when Russia unilaterally annexed Crimea — a peninsula that sticks out into the Black Sea and is home to a Russian navy base — away from Ukraine, drawing condemnation from the Western world and a series of sanctions. 

Ukraine map after Crimean crisis 2014

Russian Deputy Foreign Ministry Sergei Ryabkov was cited by Russian news agencies on Tuesday as calling the deployment of U.S. warships in the Black Sea a provocation designed to test Russia’s nerves.

“There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores,” Ryabkov said, warning there was a very high risk of unspecified incidents if U.S. military hardware were to be positioned in the Black Sea.

“We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying. “It will be for their own good.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined during a regular press briefing on Friday to confirm the Turkish government’s statement that U.S. warships were being sent to the Black Sea. He noted that the U.S. “routinely” operates in the Black Sea, but said he wouldn’t “speak to operations.”

Ukrainian servicemen hold a position on the frontline with Russia backed separatists near small city of Marinka, Donetsk region on April 12, 2021.STR/AFP/GETTY

The current escalation has added strain to already tense U.S.-Russian relations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Russia against aggressive actions in an interview aired over the weekend, saying any aggression in Ukraine would have consequences.

Ukraine in Turmoil 

Ryabkov responded on Tuesday, accusing the Russian “adversary” of trying to undermine Russia’s position on the international stage. He reiterated Russia’s readiness to defend the interests of its citizens, and ethnic Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was preparing itself in the event any new sanctions should be imposed on Moscow by the U.S. or its global partners.

Shmel-class gunboat of the Russian Navy's Caspian Flotilla sails along the Don River in Rostov-on-Don
A Shmel-class gunboat of the Russian Navy’s Caspian Flotilla sails past a cruise ship on the Don River during the inter-fleet move from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, April 13, 2021.SERGEY PIVOVAROV/REUTERS

Meanwhile, Russia has continued to move forces into both Crimea and the region along its border with Ukraine. The Defense Ministry reported on Tuesday that 15 warships and vessels of the Caspian Flotilla had been sent to the Black Sea as part of previously announced military exercises.

Ukraine said earlier this week that Russia had already massed more than 40,000 troops along its border, and at least 40,000 more in Crimea. Russia says the troop buildup is part of exercises, and has stressed that its forces will go where they want, when they want on Russian territory.

“Very provocative action”

Top U.S. officials are in Europe this week, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Blinken. Austin announced during a stop in Germany on Tuesday that the U.S. was going to deploy an additional 500 troops to that country. 

When asked if the move was meant as a message to Russia, he said it was “a sign to NATO” of the U.S. commitment to the transatlantic alliance, and of the firm commitment to Germany. Under President Donald Trump, Washington said it would withdraw thousands of the American forces who’ve been stationed in Germany for decades. That decision was suspended by the Biden administration, and now the force is set to grow.

Blinken, meanwhile, was in Brussels, meeting NATO partners, and he met separately with his Ukrainian counterpart to discuss the standoff with Russia.

“The United States stands firmly behind the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and I’m her to reaffirm that with the foreign minister today,” Blinken said. “That’s particularly important in a time when we’re seeing, unfortunately, Russia take very provocative action when it comes to Ukraine. We’re now seeing the largest concentration of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border since 2014. That is a big concern not only to Ukraine, but to the United States and indeed to many of our allies and partners.”   

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) meets with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (L) in Brussels on April 13, 2021.JOHANNA GERON/POOL/AFP/GETTY

Sitting across from him, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the Russian buildup was “taking place not only along the border of Ukraine, but along the border of the democratic world. For thousands of kilometers to the north and to the east of our border with Russia, there is no democracy. So, this is the struggle that is taking place between democracies and authoritarianism, and in this struggle the support of the United States is absolutely crucial, and deeply appreciated.”

Kuleba thanked NATO, also, and said that warnings already conveyed to Moscow through diplomatic channels, “will be supported by actions that make it very clear for Russia that the price of further aggression against Ukraine will be too heavy for it to bear.”

He said the Ukrainian and U.S. delegations in Brussels, and more broadly the NATO allies at large, would continue discussing ways to ensure stability along his country’s tense border with Russia.

While no NATO deployments have been confirmed, Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed the alliance was planning to position 40,000 more troops and 15,000 pieces of military equipment close to Russian territory. He didn’t elaborate, but said that “in response to the military activity of the alliance that threatens Russia, we have taken appropriate measures.” 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier on Tuesday that he was “seriously concerned” by Russia’s deployment of additional forces to the Ukrainian border.

“Russia is now trying to reestablish some kind of sphere of influence where they try to decide what neighbors can do,” Stoltenberg said.’s Tucker Reals contributed to this report.

World’s 1st case of human infection with bird flu in Russia

Russia has confirmed the first case of human infection with the avian influenza A(H5N8) virus in the world, a Russian sanitary official announced on Saturday

Photo Courtesy: IANS
Photo Courtesy: IANS


Published: 21 Feb 2021, 10:30 AMEngagement: 653

Russia has confirmed the first case of human infection with the avian influenza A(H5N8) virus in the world, a Russian sanitary official announced on Saturday.

Scientists have isolated the genetic material of this bird flu virus in seven workers of a poultry farm in south Russia, where an outbreak among fowls was reported in December, said Anna Popova, head of the country’s consumer rights and human well-being watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, the Xinhua news agency reported.

All the necessary measures were taken immediately to protect humans and animals, and the infection did not spread further, she told a briefing.

All of the seven people who were infected are now feeling well, with only mild clinical symptoms, Popova said.

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Russia warns of human-to-human transmission of new bird flu mutation

Montana State News Bureau

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A mutating strain of bird flu that has emerged in Russia has “a fairly high degree of probability” of human-to-human transmission, the head of the country’s health watchdog warned in a report.

Anna Popova, who heads Rospotrebnadzor, made the worrying prediction almost a month after scientists detected the first case of H5N8 transmission to humans at a southern Russia poultry farm, the Moscow Times reported.

Humans can get infected with other bird and swine flu subtypes, but the H5N8 strain — which is lethal for birds — has never previously been reported to have spread among people.

“This is likely to happen. Colleagues say that the mutation is continuing very actively,” Popova said, adding that Rospotrebnadzor and the Siberia-based Vektor state research lab have time to develop a test kit and a vaccine, and then to “monitor the situation.”

“If we won’t need it, it’ll be a lucky break. But if necessary, we’ll be ready,” Russia’s chief sanitary doctor told Russian news agency TASS.

Russian Chief Sanitary Physician Anna Popova
Russian chief sanitary physician Anna Popova says a spread of the strain among humans is “likely to happen.”

“In other words, we’ll be able to warn the entire world community of the threat.”

Last month, Popova reported the first case of the H5N8 strain passing to humans from birds to the World Health Organization, according to Reuters.

bird flu Russia
The H5N8 strain, which is lethal for birds, has never previously been reported to have spread among people.

In addition to Russia and Europe, outbreaks of H5N8 have been reported in recent months in China, the Middle East and North Africa — but so far only in poultry.

Other strains of avian flu, such as H5N1, H7N9 and H9N2, have been known to spread to humans.

bird Russia
Outbreaks of H5N8 have been reported in recent months in China, the Middle East and North Africa.

Seven workers at a Russian poultry plant had been infected with the H5N8 mutation in an outbreak at the plant in December, Popova said, adding that everyone quickly recovered.

“This situation did not develop further,” she said in late February.

Russian MP moves to ban poaching of killer whales & dolphins in bid to shut vibrant but controversial marine mammal park industry

2 Mar, 2021 10:29 / Updated 3 days agoGet short URL

Russian MP moves to ban poaching of killer whales & dolphins in bid to shut vibrant but controversial marine mammal park industry

FILE PHOTO. An animal trainer during a killer whale show at the Moskvarium Center of Oceanography and Marine Biology at the National Exhibition of Economic Achievements (VDNKh) © Sputnik

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By Jonny TickleA leading Russian parliamentarian has proposed a new bill to ban the catching of marine mammals, which would eventually lead to the closure of the country’s many dolphinaria as collections could no longer be replenished.

Authored by State Duma deputy Svetlana Bessarab, of the ruling United Russia party, the bill would prevent the practice of taking mammals such as dolphins, seals, and killer whales into captivity, including for educational purposes. The aim is to stop the poaching of animals that have evolved to live in a large oceanic territory. Over time, as the animals currently affected eventually die, institutions with marine mammals would be forced to close.

While the practice is already illegal in many countries around the world, dolphinariums are a fixture of Russian resort towns. Furthermore, poachers also sell around 100 animals a year to China, for about $2 million each.ALSO ON RT.COMBig money makes solutions tough, Putin says, as first captured belugas and orcas are released

As things stand, capturing marine mammals is already highly regulated, with purchasing from illegal poachers completed banned. However, according to Bessarab, there is now an absurd situation where state agencies seize animals from criminals and then hand them over to dolphinariums for ‘safekeeping’, despite these institutions not being equipped to rehabilitate the animals.

READ MORE: Fight for freedom: Last batch of belugas on a doorstep of ‘whale prison’ ready to go to the wild (VIDEO)

In 2018, activists discovered around 100 whales living in tightly packed aquatic ‘pens’ in Russia’s Far East. The animals were later declared as having been illegally captured, and the local governor said they would all be released back into the wild. In November 2019, the last of the captured whales were finally returned to their ocean home.

Russia reports first human cases of H5N8 bird flu


Published 1 day ago


on February 20, 2021

ByBNO News

File photo (Credit: OIE)


Seven people at a poultry farm in southern Russia have been infected with H5N8 bird flu, officials say, making it the first time that the highly pathogenic virus has been found in humans. There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

“Today, I want to inform you about an important scientific discovery made by scientists at the Vector scientific center,” Anna Popova, the head of Russia’s consumer health watchdog, said on Saturday. “The first cases of human infection with [avian influenza A(H5N8)] have been laboratory confirmed.”

The virus was found in seven employees at a poultry farm in southern Russia, where outbreaks of H5N8 were reported in the bird population in December 2020. Popova described the human cases as “mild,” according to the Interfax news agency.

“The virus can be transmitted from birds to humans, it has overcome the interspecies barrier,” Popova said. “As of today, this variant of the influenza virus is not being transmitted from person to person. Only time will tell how quickly future mutations will allow it to overcome this barrier.”


Popova said the discovery will help researchers prepare for the possibility of human-to-human transmission of the H5N8 virus. Detailed information about the cases has been submitted to the World Health Organization.

H5N8 has been found in birds since at least 1983 and outbreaks have occurred frequently since 2014, when it was found in breeding ducks in South Korea. Numerous outbreaks have been reported during the past 6 months, including in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, China, Japan, and South Korea.

“The H5N8 type influenza is regarded as pathogenic and is currently manifesting itself in a variety of ways, from asymptomatic and sub-clinical to highly lethal in some populations,” the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said in an update about recent outbreaks.

Human cases of H5 viruses are rare but are typically found in those who have contact with sick or dead birds.

239 human cases of H5N1 bird flu have been reported in China and Southeast Asia since 2003, killing 134 people, according to WHO. More recently, two people in China were infected with the H5N6 variant in January, causing the death of a three-year-old girl.

“Community awareness of the potential dangers for human health is essential to prevent infection in humans,” WHO said in a public health assessment for H5 viruses. “Surveillance should be continued to detect human cases and early changes in transmissibility and infectivity of the viruses.”

Unsafe levels of radiation found in Chernobyl crops

By Harry Baker – Staff Writer 2 days ago

The effects of the explosive 1986 disaster can still be seen in nearby crops.

Chernobyl nuclear reactors.(Image: © Shutterstock)

Crops grown near the Chernobyl nuclear site in Ukraine are still contaminated with radiation from the explosive 1986 disaster. 

In a new study, researchers found that wheat, rye, oats and barley grown in this area contained two radioactive isotopes — strontium 90 and cesium 137 — that were above safe consumption limits. Radioactive isotopes are elements that have increased masses and release excess energy as a result.

“Our findings point to ongoing contamination and human exposure, compounded by lack of official routine monitoring,” study author David Santillo, an environmental forensic scientist at Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter, said in a statement, referring to the fact that the government suspended its radioactive goods monitoring program in 2013. 

Related: 5 weird things you didn’t know about Chernobyl

Santillo and his colleagues, in collaboration with researchers from the Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Radiology, analyzed 116 grain samples, collected between 2011 and 2019, from the Ivankiv district of Ukraine — about 31 miles (50 kilometers) south of the nuclear plant. 

This area is outside of Chernobyl’s “exclusion zone,” which is a 30 mile (48 km) radius around the plant that was evacuated in 1986 and has remained unoccupied. They found radioactive isotopes, predominantly strontium 90, were above safe consumption level in 48% of samples. They also found that wood samples collected from the same region between 2015 and 2019, had strontium 90 levels above the safe limit for firewood.CLOSENuclear Disasters: Chernobyl vs. FukushimaVolume 0% PLAY SOUNDRELATED CONTENT

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The researchers believe that the lingering radiation in the wood, in particular, may be the reason for the continued contamination of crops, almost 35 years after the disaster. When analyzing the wood ash from domestic wood-burning ovens, they found strontium 90 levels that were 25 times higher than the safe limit. Locals use this ash, as well as ash from the local thermal power plant (TPP), to fertilize their crops, which continues to cycle the radiation through their soil. 

However, computer simulations suggest that it could be possible to grow crops in the region at “safe” levels if this process of repeated contamination ceased. The researchers are now calling for the Ukrainian government to reinstate its monitoring program and create a system for properly disposing of radioactive ash. 

“Contamination of grain and wood grown in the Ivankiv district remains of major concern and deserves further urgent investigation,” study author Valery Kashparov, director of the Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Radiology, said in the statement. “Similarly, further research is urgently needed to assess the effects of the Ivankiv TPP on the environment and local residents, which still remain mostly unknown.”

The findings were published on Dec. 17 in the journal Environment International.

It Sure Looks Like Russia Sent Military Dolphins to Syria

Here’s what the marine mammals were likely guarding.

BY KYLE MIZOKAMIJUL 20, 2020aerial view of a large pod of dolphins swimming in blue waterVICKI SMITHGETTY IMAGES

  • Satellite imagery of the Russian naval base at Tartus in Syria shows pens used to keep marine mammals.
  • The marine mammals are likely military dolphins sent by Russia to guard its fleet in Syria.
  • Russia’s marine mammal arsenal includes beluga whales, one of which was sighted hanging around Norway last year.

Satellite photos of a Russian naval base in Syria depict pens typically used to hold trained marine mammals. The pens, which made a brief appearance at the Tartus naval base from September to December 2018, likely contained military dolphins. Both the U.S. and Russia use trained dolphins to detect mines and enemy saboteurs—and Iran might, too.READ THISDoes Iran Have Secret Armed Dolphin Assassins?

The pens, according to naval analyst H.I. Sutton, appeared in the same part of Tartus reserved for Russian submarines visiting Syria. Russian subs have repeatedly launched cruise missile strikes against opponents of the Russian-backed Syrian regime. Sutton believes the pens likely held dolphins trained to defend ships against enemy saboteurs.This content is imported from Twitter. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

Russian military intervention in Syria is opposed by a number of sides in the conflict. Enemies of the Assad regime have launched several attacks against Moscow’s military forces, including a January 2018 mass drone strike against Tartus and Russia’s Hmeimim air base. Russia was likely concerned that enemy divers might attack warships in port and deployed dolphins as a response.

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The pens only appear in imagery taken in the fall and winter of 2018. It’s not clear why the deployment was so short-lived, but Sutton speculates it may have been a test.

Russia declares state of emergency over Arctic Circle oil spill caused by melting permafrost

The spill of diesel has caused rivers to run red

Updated 4:44 p.m. PDT June 5, 2020

Melting permafrost caused a fuel tank holding 21,000 tons of diesel oil to collapse in Russia’s Arctic Circle, leading to a 135-square mile oil spill.

According to Rosprirodnadzor, the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources, 6,000 tons spilled onto the ground, another 15,000 tons into the water. Oil products got into the Ambarnaya and Daldykan rivers and in almost all their tributaries.

The spill occurred in the city of Norilsk, Russia, at a power plant operated by Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Co., a subsidiary of Nornickel. The town is located above the Arctic Circle in Russia’s far North.

An emergency situation has been declared, the company said on its website. Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to introduce a federal-level emergency regime because of the spill after the Minister of Emergency Situations Yevgeny Zinichev suggested it.

Greenpeace has already called the spill the first accident of such a large scale in the Arctic. The organization believes that damage to water bodies alone from a diesel spill in Norilsk could amount to more than $85 million.

A diesel fuel storage tank failed when the permafrost it was built on began to soften. As a result of damage to the tank, fuel spilled onto the roadway and a passing car caught fire.

“The accident was caused by a sudden sinking of supporting posts in the basement of the storage tank,” the company said in a statement.

The leaking diesel oil had extended as far as 7 miles from the accident site and turned long stretches of the Ambarnaya bright red.

In Russia, diesel is dyed red if it’s used for heating of buildings and structures. Red diesel is usually pumped into special storage tanks and subsequently consumed as an energy source.

Zinichev told Putin that the Norilsk plant had spent two days trying to contain the spill before alerting his ministry. The region’s governor, Alexander Uss, had told Putin that he became aware of the oil spill on Sunday only after “alarming information appeared in social media”.

According to Russian media, the liquidation team has already cleaned about 53,000 cubic feet of soil at the site of the diesel fuel spill in Norilsk and pumped out 201 tons of fuel. More than 130 tons were removed from the Ambarnaya river.

Nornickel is the world’s leading producer of nickel and palladium producer. Palladium is a rare metal used to make catalytic converters.

One of the company’s key co-owners is Vladimir Potanin who was listed as the richest man in Russia with the fortune of $25 billion. The billionaire has lost $1.5 billion due to the consequences of the accident, according to Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaires ranking.

The Investigative Committee of Russia has opened a criminal case of negligence due to untimely reporting of an accident near Norilsk, according to the agency’s website. Who or what, exactly, the criminal case has been opened on was not specified. Russian authorities have already arrested the head of one of the units of a thermal power plant.

As global warming has raised temperatures, especially in Arctic latitudes, melting permafrost has become a major problem. In many colder areas buildings and structures are built on permafrost which can be as hard – and had been as permanent – as concrete.

That has begun to change with warming temperatures, causing damage to buildings and changing

Source: USA TODAY Research;  Google Earth; Planet Labs Inc.; Associated Press/RU-RTR/Kremlin;