Russia Sees Surge In Fake Vaccination Certificates Along With Record COVID-19 Death Tolls

People wait in line at a vaccination center in a park in Moscow's outskirts on July 1.  

A sophisticated black market for fake vaccine certificates and negative COVID tests has cropped up in Russia as the country struggles with a new surge of coronavirus cases and record daily death tolls.

Law enforcement officials in Moscow said on July 2 that they had detained a 33-year-old man suspected of selling forged coronavirus certificates to city residents, while police in St. Petersburg said three probes had been launched against individuals who sold fake vaccination certificates and negative PCR tests in the city and the surrounding region.

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Russia on July 1 reported 672 coronavirus deaths over the previous 24 hours, setting a pandemic high for fatalities for the third day in a row.

Worst hit have been Moscow and St. Petersburg, the country’s two largest cities. While the daily number of new COVID-19 cases is several times lower in St. Petersburg than in Moscow, the daily number of deaths related to the coronavirus has been higher than in the Russian capital.

The chief of Moscow’s health department, Aleksei Khripun, characterized the situation in the city surrounding the coronavirus as "tense" and called on all residents of the Russian capital to get vaccinated.

Compounding the problem is that Russia currently has one of the lowest rates of vaccinations among major industrial nations, with many people either distrusting the science behind locally developed vaccines or the government more generally.

An opinion poll in February showed just over 62 percent of Russians surveyed didn’t want to be vaccinated.

To spur an increase in vaccinations, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced on July 1 the beginning of a booster vaccine campaign across the capital.

Sobyanin said revaccination was available with any of the four Russian-registered vaccines, but that the flagship Sputnik V and the singe-dose Sputnik Light would initially be used at eight clinics across the city.

In late May, when COVID-19 cases first began to surge again, authorities in Moscow and several other regions announced mandatory vaccinations for people working in the public sector.

As of July 2, the total number of registered coronavirus cases in Russia was reported as 5,538,142, including 135,886 deaths, the highest death toll in Europe.

With reporting by Interfax, TASS, RIA Novosti, and the BBC

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