One of the US media’s most outspoken Moscow watchers, writer and activist Masha Gessen, courted controversy by telling American TV viewers that Russians are wary of Covid-19 vaccines as they don’t care about the lives of others.
A correspondent for The New Yorker magazine and LGBT rights campaigner, Gessen made the explosive claims on the airwaves of Democracy Now!, an East Coast-based left-wing station.
Discussing the fact that many Russians have held off signing up for a jab, despite the country making vast supplies available, the commentator claimed that one “reason they are not taking the vaccine is because of a general culture of a lack of respect for human life.”
This attitude, Gessen insisted, “is characteristic of this particular government.” It is unclear whether this view extends to all groups of people wary of taking the jab anywhere in the world, or only to Russians.
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However, in a piece for The New Yorker in April, Gessen wrote that vaccine skepticism was driving a spike in Covid-19 cases in US elderly-care facilities. One clinician, Jay Meyerowitz, told the outlet that a third of the staff had refused a dose because of “disinformation” about vaccines and the belief that they were unlikely to get sick.
“And these are people with bachelor of science, or bachelor of science in nursing, degrees!” the doctor added. It would seem, in the eyes of the Western media, that when Americans express hesitancy about vaccines, it is a misunderstanding, but when Russians do the same, it is a sign of a cruel and callous culture.
At the same time, Gessen expressed concern that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been legitimized by a meeting with his US counterpart, Joe Biden in Geneva on Wednesday. The writer said that the American president was preoccupied with finding “areas of common interest,” while Putin was unconcerned with “trying to negotiate in good faith.”
The Russian president hailed the summit as “constructive,” while Biden emphasized the importance of face-to-face contact even with those he disagrees with. The two leaders reportedly agreed on a number of issues, including co-operation in the vast Arctic region and the need to avoid nuclear conflict.
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Gessen’s family moved from Moscow to the US in 1981 as part of a US government-run resettlement program. Keith Gessen, Masha’s brother, is also an outspoken critic of the Kremlin, and wrote a novel entitled ‘A Terrible Country’ about his experiences in Russia.
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