‘Somebody wants to distort the truth’ The Kremlin rejects anonymous reports by doctors that the military didn’t warn them about radiation risks after an engine-test explosion
Meduza: When answering journalists’ questions in France and Finland, President Putin said he’s receiving reports about the explosion in the White Sea and in these reports he’s been told that everything is under control. Meanwhile, doctors in Arkhangelsk tell Meduza and other news outlets that they weren’t notified that they were treating people exposed to doses of radiation. Then all documentary evidence and medical records were seized, and now the doctors can’t even prove anything. Is this also reflected in the president’s briefings? Does the Kremlin consider this to be a normal response to a radiation disaster? Will there be any inquiry into these reports?
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov: I don’t know anything about this. I don’t know which doctors are in question.
Meduza: This concerns the Arkhangelsk regional hospital.
Peskov: I understand, but we need to know specifically who these doctors are. You see? We can’t discuss this case anonymously.
Meduza: And what if people are afraid of penalties, and that’s why they’re talking to journalists anonymously?
Peskov: What kind of penalties? For medical work? That’s just stupid! You say, “according to Arkhangelsk doctors.” “Arkhangelsk doctors” is pretty abstract. Putin, meanwhile, is given concrete information based on instrument readings and on-the-ground assessments of the situation. It’s all highly professional. And there’s no reason to doubt this information. As for the opinions of these individual doctors, then of course we need to know what the opinions are and specifically whose opinions. I don’t think you have any right to ask me about what “Arkhangelsk doctors claim.”
Ekho Moskvy: And what if they were pledged to non-disclosure agreements or something like that? What would happen then?
Peskov: I don’t know. If they signed anything related to some professional activity that falls under the law on state secrets, then they must accordingly honor their obligations. If they were pledged to secrecy, how are they asserting something contrary in the abstract? You see? The whole situation here is completely contradictory.
Ekho Moskvy: Let’s try to phrase it like this: according to the information reported in the media, and according to the information reported by local ecologists, activists, and residents. Does the Kremlin realize that the unfolding narrative makes it look like the state is trying to reduce [the amount of] information about the accident’s consequences?
Peskov: Okay, but have you tried looking at the situation from the other side? It’s like someone deliberately wants to heat up the publicity here, distorting reality and presenting the situation as if there were some kind of disaster risk. Have you thought about putting the question this way?
Ekho Moskvy: You could, of course…
Peskov: So ask [the question] from both sides.
Ekho Moskvy: We’ll naturally ask the other side, but that’s why we’re asking you now.
Peskov: Let’s look at this from both sides.
Translation by Kevin Rothrock