The UK security services are said to have informed ministers that they have proof one of Russian spies swiped the vaccine data.

Kremlin's Spy Stole AstraZeneca Vaccine Formula To Develop Sputnik V, Alleges British Daily

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Tuesday, October 12, 2021 03:48 PM IST
Kremlin's Spy Stole AstraZeneca Vaccine Formula To Develop Sputnik V, Alleges British DailyAstraZeneca and Sputnik V Covid-19 Vaccine
  • A recent report claimed that Russian spies stole the blueprint for the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine and utilised it to develop the Sputnik V jab.

    The country [UK] needed to "get serious about Russian and Chinese espionage" says Britain’s Conservative Party MP and an expert in Russian affairs, Bob Seely.

Russian spies allegedly had acquired the blueprint for the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine and utilised it to develop the country's own Sputnik V jab, claimed a recently published report.

It was also reported that the security services in the United Kingdom had informed ministers that they now have evidence that a foreign agent took critical information from the pharmaceutical company, including the blueprint for the Covid-19 jab.

According to the exclusive report published by The Sun, in 2020, the late security minister James Brokenshire, who recently died after suffering lung cancer, stated they were "more than 95 per cent” certain that Russian state-sponsored hackers had targeted drug companies developing Covid-19 jab in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

However, British Home Office Minister Damian Hinds on 11 October refused to corroborate the latest reports, but he did acknowledge that cyber-attacks were growing increasingly sophisticated. He said: “We live in a world, I am afraid, where there is state activity seeking to engage in industrial espionage and economic espionage, there are cyber attacks that happen and so on.”

Additionally, Hinds said: “The face of espionage, the face of spying, is very different from when you and I were growing up and we need to constantly upgrade our capability. These are very serious matters.”

According to The Sun, Britain’s Conservative Party MP Bob Seely, an expert in Russian affairs said that the country needed to "get serious about Russian and Chinese espionage".

“Whether it is stealing the design for Astra-Zeneca or blackmailing us over energy by these authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, we need to get wise to them,” he added.

On the other hand, a spokeswoman for the Sputnik V vaccine's maker disputed the claim that it stole the design and called the allegations "fake news and a blatant lie".

On behalf of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is Russia's sovereign wealth fund established in 2011 by the Russian government, Andrew Leach of London PR agency Hudson Sandler made a statement on 11 October. It said: "UK media reports that Russia’s Sputnik V was allegedly based on research from the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is another fake news and blatant lie based on anonymous sources."

The statement noted that Sputnik V was based on a human vector, unlike the AstraZeneca vaccine, which used a chimpanzee adenoviral vector. It also noted that the story “originate by The Sun tabloid” was spread by those opposed to the success of one of the world's most successful and safe vaccinations against Covid-19, and “we find such attacks highly unethical as they undermine the global vaccination effort”.

“They also make absolutely no sense scientifically as Sputnik V and AstraZeneca use different platforms,” the statement added.

Intelectual Property Theft

Last year, Russia replied to accusations that it tried to steal British Covid-19 vaccine research by claiming that the local vaccine was well ahead of the competition and that there was "no reason” to snoop.

At that time, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “The British say that they are almost certain, or 95 per cent, confident in what they say. Why not 96 per cent? Or 94 per cent? It seems their security services have very peculiar calculation methods.”

It was not just Russia, but North Korean cyber criminals were also accused of hacking into a Covid-19 vaccine research project led by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca last year.

According to Reuters, the hackers pretended to be recruiters on LinkedIn and WhatsApp, approaching AstraZeneca employees with fraudulent job offers. They then distributed documents that looked like job descriptions but were actually malicious programmes designed to break into a victim's computer.

As per the Reuters report, the hacking attempts targeted a “broad set of people”, including Covid-19 research related individuals, but were unsuccessful.

The relation between the United Kingdom and Kremlin became tensed after an investigation by The Times has shown a Russian disinformation effort aimed at undermining and spreading fear about the Oxford- AstraZeneca jab. In Russia, photos, memes and videos presenting the British-made vaccination as harmful have been created and middlemen were attempting to "seed" the images on social media networks around the world.

At that time, then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab condemned the “shabby” disinformation campaign, which falsely mocked the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab as a “monkey vaccine”. At that time, he said: “It’s very serious because it’s an attempt to disrupt the attempts to find a safe vaccine.”

However, now the official spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office has declined to comment on the specific report that security services sources have evidence that Russian spies stole the Oxford-AstraZencea vaccine design.

But the spokesperson said: “I’ve seen reports on this. We take any such accusations of intellectual property theft and cyberattacks extremely seriously, and we’ve called out attempts in the past. But as you would expect, I’m not going to comment on matters on the intelligence front.”

Join our Telegram channel - no spam or links, only crisp analysis.
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

An Appeal...

Dear Reader,

As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.

Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.

We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.

Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.

Become A Patron
Become A Subscriber
Comments ↓
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

Latest Articles

    Artboard 4Created with Sketch.