The World Health Organisation has suggested that Russia should review the way it counts coronavirus deaths, describing the country's low death toll as "unusual".
The comments by a senior WHO official have again raised suspicions about Russia's death toll, which stands at just over 6,000 and is extremely low compared with other European countries. Russian officials have attributed it to widespread and early testing as well as the demographics.
Irishman Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO's health emergencies programme, said the outbreak in Russia had been following a trajectory similar to European countries, which is why its "low death rate is hard to understand".
He added, however, that WHO officials did not imply there was "systematic" under-reporting in Russia. His remarks have irked many in Moscow.
Gennady Onishchenko, a Russian government official and former chief of its healthcare watchdog, has accused Mr Ryan of politicising the outbreak and trying to "discredit" the country.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said he did not find Russia's low mortality rate unusual and expressed confidence that the country's healthcare watchdog would address the WHO's concerns.
The WHO's guidelines for classifying Covid-19 deaths recommend that health workers put Covid-19 on the death certificate even if the virus is ruled to be an "underlying" but not primary cause of death.
Russia's healthcare workers have been following a conservative protocol in attributing coronavirus deaths. The nation of 145 million has officially reported just 6,532 Covid-19 deaths, despite the city of Moscow acknowledging on Wednesday that more than 5,000 people with coronavirus died in May alone. (© Daily Telegraph, London)