Did Russian President Vladimir Putin order the destruction of all COVID-19 vaccine supplies in Russia? No, that's not true. The claim originated from a website known for spreading false claims, and no other independent credible source has published anything to back up this theory. On March 4, 2023, the Russian Ministry of Health publicly confirmed sending additional doses to different regions, not destroying supplies.
The claim appeared in a post published on Instagram on March 5, 2023. It opened:
Soon the west will do the same
The text in the shared screenshot of a March 5, 2023, tweet that did not cite any sources continued:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the destruction of all Covid-19 vaccine stockpiles on Russian soil, 48 hours after the scientist who made Russian vaccine was found strangled to death.
Here is what it looked like at the time of writing:
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Mon Mar 6 15:16:08 2023 UTC)
Besides English, the claim also circulated in Italian and Russian.
The story originated from an article published by Real Raw News on March 4, 2023. It said:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the destruction of all Covid-19 vaccine stockpiles on Russian soil, citing an undeniable connection between what has been dubbed the "Moscow Vax" and a sudden surge of HIV infections in vaccinated persons, Federal Service Bureau agent Andrei Zakharov told Real Raw News.
Speculations and claims that COVID-19 vaccines can cause HIV or AIDS have already been debunked by Lead Stories.
Additionally, the Real Raw News article cited a source working for a non-existent government agency. There is no such thing as the "Federal Service Bureau" in Russia. The FSB, an acronym utilizing the same uppercase letters, stands for the Russian name of the Federal Security Service ("Федеральная служба безопасности".) That agency is not known for being transparent or allowing its agents to talk to the press freely without consequences.
Andrei Zakharov, however, does exist. He is a BBC journalist, not a "Federal Service Bureau" agent. In October 2021, Zakharov was added to the registry of "foreign agents" by the Russian authorities and left the country.
The claim about the purported destruction of COVID-19 vaccines followed March 4, 2023, news reports in Russian media saying that Moscow had run out of the first doses of the Sputnik V vaccine. On the same day, the federal Ministry of Health told the state news agency RIA Novosti that it shipped additional doses to several regions, including the capital.
A specialist of the 24-hour Unified Information Service of Moscow told Lead Stories over the phone on March 6, 2023, that vaccination appointments are still available in the city.
As of this writing, major international media outlets haven't reported on the existence of the purported order.
A search on the Reuters website shows nothing:
(Source: Reuters screenshot taken on Mon Mar 6 16:16:17 2023 UTC)
Websites of the Associated Press, Washington Post, Politico and New York Times produced no relevant search results either.
Russian-language independent media outlets Meduza, MediaZona, TV Rain and Important Stories did not publish anything similar in early March 2023.
Many presidential orders in Russia are published on the website of the head of state here and here. Between January 1 and March 6, 2023, not a single entry discussed the destruction of COVID-19 vaccines.
Real Raw News website is known for publishing "baseless and debunked conspiracies about COVID-19 and U.S. politics," as Newsguard described it in 2021.
Lead Stories has previously debunked many claims originating from that resource.
On the About page (archived here), Real Raw News that its preliminary goal is entertainment, not providing their audiences with high-quality information:
Information on this website is for informational and educational and entertainment purposes. This website contains humor, parody, and satire. We have included this disclaimer for our protection, on the advice on legal counsel.
Other Lead Stories fact checks about coronavirus can be found here.