Russian President Vladimir Putin has complained that reports of a coronavirus outbreak in Russia are "fake news," according to a report Friday. According to numbers reported by Russian sources, as of early Saturday morning local time, the country of 144 million people had reported only 253 cases of COVID-19, the respiratory ailment caused by the novel coronavirus, making Russia one of the world's most successful countries at preventing the pandemic, according to figures compiled by Worldometers.
At the same time, however, the city of Moscow saw 6,921 cases of pneumonia in January compared to 5,058 the previous year — an increase of 37 percent, according to a report by the Reuters news agency published on Friday. Nationwide, pneumonia cases were up by three percent compared to last year.
Moscow — a city of 13 million, making it home to almost one of every 10 Russians — has recorded 98 confirmed coronavirus cases. But the sudden increase in pneumonia has led to suspicions that the government is deliberately under-reporting the coronavirus figures, according to Reuters.
But Putin has dismissed the reports, claiming that the Kremlin's coronavirus numbers are accurate and that "Russia is being targeted by fake news to sow panic," Reuters reported.
Donald Trump, who has often been linked to Putin through his own public statements as well as by congressional investigations, has also lashed out at the press over coverage of the coronavirus crisis. On Friday, he blasted one NBC News correspondent as "a terrible reporter," as seen in the video below.