Jaber Mohamed was a former chief communications officer on the Division of Well being below Matt Hancock. He’s now an affiliate director at a media relations firm employed to raise the profile of Moscow’s controversial Sputnik V Covid vaccine in Britain
A former Authorities PR officer liable for selling Covid jabs to the British public turned a spinner for a Kremlin-backed Russian agency concerned in spreading propaganda about Western pictures, MailOnline can reveal.
Jaber Mohamed left his function as chief communications officer on the Division of Well being final summer season the place he labored below former Well being Secretary Matt Hancock through the UK’s coronavirus vaccine drive.
He’s now an affiliate director at Engine MHP, the media relations firm employed to raise the profile of Moscow’s controversial Sputnik V Covid vaccine in Britain.
The Russian jab, which isn’t being utilized by any main Western nations, is backed by the state-controlled Russian Direct Funding Fund (RDIF) launched by Vladimir Putin in 2011.
Safety bosses within the EU and US have described Sputnik V as a Russian propaganda instrument and mentioned its aggressive media technique ‘sought to undermine public belief’ in Western vaccines and regulators.
There isn’t any suggestion that Engine MHP or Mr Mohamed unfold any misinformation nevertheless it comes amid heightened considerations about Kremlin interference within the UK following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Investigations by the EU’s defence ministry and US State Division final yr discovered that Russia had used Sputnik to launch an unlimited marketing campaign ‘to unfold propaganda and lies’ in regards to the Pfizer and Moderna jabs.
Many of the exercise may be discovered on Sputnik’s official Twitter account, which boasts 1million followers. The account has printed quite a few unfounded claims, together with that AstraZeneca and Pfizer’s vaccines have prompted excessive numbers of unreported deaths.
The Twitter account has additionally performed up fears about vaccine unintended effects, and simply days in the past claimed jab-induced coronary heart irritation after mRNA vaccines was being ‘underreported’.
Engine MHP informed MailOnline that it has reduce all ties to the Russian Direct Funding Fund after what it referred to as the ‘appalling’ Russian invasion of Ukraine and claims it ‘obtained no fee for the work undertaken’.
The agency additionally mentioned it had no involvement within the content material or administration of Sputnik’s social media accounts.
The Sputnik vaccine has been mired in controversy since Russia rushed it via approval earlier than it had been correctly studied and examined in late 2020
Safety officers have singled out Sputnik’s official Twitter account, which boasts 1million followers, as being central to Russia’s pandemic propaganda operation. On April 23 2021, it printed unfounded claims that vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson have been killing extra individuals than nations have been formally disclosing. The ‘examine’ checked out anybody who died from any trigger and had obtained at the least one Western vaccine in an try to query their security profiles
Thirty-five nations, excluding Russia, have bought Sputnik V doses, principally in South America, Africa, Asia and japanese Europe, with the West steering away from the Kremlin-backed shot. Italy has been producing doses however solely a small variety of Italians have truly obtained Sputnik, with most of its doses going to neighboring San Marino
It has additionally performed up fears in regards to the unintended effects of Western jabs together with CVT – a extreme sort of mind clot related in a uncommon variety of individuals vaccinated with AstraZeneca or Johnson and Johnsons – and myocarditis, a uncommon sort of coronary heart irritation noticed after mRNA vaccination
Investigations by US and EU intelligence officers have warned of Sputnik’s media assault
Consultants have questioned most of the claims made by Sputnik citing a scarcity of knowledge, together with that it’s the ‘world’s most secure vaccine’
The Sputnik Twitter account raises fears about myocarditis in younger individuals in an try to discredit Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines
A spokesperson for the corporate informed MailOnline: ‘Engine labored briefly with the RDIF to assist medical communications round Sputnik V.
‘We took a choice to stop working with the organisation as a result of escalating and appalling scenario within the Ukraine and obtained no fee for the work undertaken.’
Mr Mohamed — a former journalist on the Mail on Sunday and Guardian — joined the press workplace on the Division of Well being and Social Care (DHSC) in October 2018, the place colleagues described him as ‘eccentric’.
Fightback in opposition to Putin’s propaganda machine: Worldwide cyber military hack THREE state information companies to dam Kremlin misinformation
A global hacking organisation has launched an all-out ‘cyberwar’ on Vladimir Putin’s media, social media websites and Kremlin-backed broadcaster in a bid to thwart the despot’s propaganda in opposition to Ukraine and the West.
Nameless have apparently focused three Russian state information companies and brought down the Kremlin web site after attacking Kremlin-backed channel RT.
When attempting to entry Fontanka, TASS and Kommersant’s web sites on Monday morning, error messages appeared and the web sites have been unable to load.
The newest transfer comes after the elusive pc hackers declared a ‘cyber conflict’ in opposition to Vladimir Putin’s authorities on Thursday after he mounted a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow has been accused of manufacturing Hollywood-style ‘faux information’ movies to inflame tensions with Ukraine.
Misinformation in regards to the battle consists of the notion that Ukrainian troopers are ‘radical nationalists’ who’re defending a genocide in opposition to Russians.
When MailOnline tried to entry Fontanka, a information outlet based mostly in St Petersburg, on Monday morning, a message signed by Nameless urged residents to ‘cease this insanity’ and says Vladimir Putin has ‘put us in peril’.
The message, which changed the web site’s regular homepage, claimed they are going to be ‘fired’ or ‘jailed’ for his or her actions however added that they ‘can’t take it anymore’.
It reads: ‘Pricey residents. We urge you to cease this insanity, don’t ship your sons and husbands to sure demise. Putin makes us lie and places us in peril.
‘We have been remoted from the entire world, they stopped shopping for oil and fuel. In a number of years we’ll reside like in North Korea.
‘What’s it for us? To place Putin within the textbooks? This isn’t our conflict, let’s cease it!
‘This message will probably be deleted, and a few of us will probably be fired and even jailed. However we will’t take it anymore.
‘Detached journalists of Russia.’
It bore the mark of Nameless, the activist collective recognized for cyber assaults in opposition to some governments and companies.
Likewise, when MailOnline tried to entry each day newspaper Kommersant’s web site on Monday morning, a message appeared saying ‘the location can’t be reached’.
An identical message appeared on information company TASS’s web site, which mentioned ‘an error occurred’.
His official title was Chief Press Officer for Worldwide, Public Well being and Medicines, which has been described as a middle-management function.
He labored below the previous Secretary of State for Well being Mr Hancock through the pandemic however sources say they have been ‘certainly not shut’ and Mr Mohamed’s interactions with ministers have been ‘restricted’.
One former colleague informed MailOnline he would ‘usually he would go above and past to make issues occur’, whereas one other mentioned he was ‘company’ minded.
Leeds College-educated Mr Mohamed joined Engine MHP in June 2021 as affiliate director of communications for the agency’s healthcare division.
Asserting his arrival, the agency mentioned: ‘He oversaw all media relations for the UK’s Covid-19 Vaccination Programme – offering strategic recommendation to the Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi and Well being Secretary Matt Hancock.’
Mr Mohamed informed MailOnline: ‘We have been approached by the RDIF to assist with medical communications across the Sputnik V vaccine. Our work for them was restricted to issuing one launch detailing trial outcomes.
‘We took the choice to stop discussions with the RDIF after ten days and requested to not obtain any fee.’
Engine started its collaboration with the RDIF and Sputnik in early February to handle the vaccine’s profile within the UK.
The RDIF wished to safe optimistic protection within the commerce press, with the hopes of garnering assist to get Sputnik concerned within the UK’s Covid vaccine rollout.
Engine mentioned it reduce ties with the Russian wealth fund on February 24 after Mr Putin ordered the army invasion of Ukraine.
The PR agency mentioned no contracts have been signed, no funds have been obtained and the partnership concerned a ‘small challenge’. Mr Mohamed was liable for distributing Engine’s sole press launch for Sputnik on February 14.
The discharge, despatched to the nationwide press and stamped with the RDIF emblem, reported outcomes from a examine in Russia and Azerbaijan wanting on the jab utilized in mixture with AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
It learn: ‘Good morning, Mixed use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine and the primary element of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine (Sputnik Mild) reveals a very good security profile with no critical adversarial occasions associated to vaccination, in line with interim outcomes of part II medical trials to judge security and immunogenicity.
‘The Russian Direct Funding Fund (RDIF, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund), R-Pharm group and AstraZeneca has as we speak introduced the interim outcomes of the trials, involving 100 volunteers in Russia and 100 volunteers in Azerbaijan.
‘The vaccines mixture demonstrated an appropriate security profile, which is according to the outcomes of earlier AstraZeneca vaccine, Sputnik V and Sputnik Mild vaccines medical trials.
‘Volunteers have been monitored for 57 days after the primary dose. Monitoring outcomes demonstrated a very good security profile of the mixture. No critical adversarial occasions associated to vaccination have been registered.’
A spokesperson for Engine added: ‘Engine labored with the RDIF for ten days in complete and didn’t obtain fee for the work undertaken.
‘Throughout this era we issued one launch round an interim trial knowledge announcement. Jaber Mohamed was a member of the Engine shopper account workforce.’
Engine is the second British PR agency to advertise Sputnik V after Powerscourt Group, which was liable for its media communications early within the pandemic.
Powerscourt Group’s well-known former purchasers embrace BP, Virgin Cash, Airbus and purchasing centre large Intu.
The consultancy partnered with the vaccine in late 2020 because the preliminary trials of the jab have been wrapping up, with the primary press launch praising Sputnik printed on November 11 that yr.
Mr Mohamed labored below Matt Hancock when he was Well being Secretary. The previous Authorities comms individual additionally labored with Nadhim Zahawi, who was then-vaccines minister
It peddled quite a few unsubstantiated claims in regards to the vaccine via its releases, together with that it’s ‘essentially the most environment friendly Covid vaccine on the earth’.
Powerscourt’s CEO, ex-journalist Rory Godson, even retweeted posts from the official Sputnik V Twitter account on the centre of propaganda accusations.
A spokesperson for Powerscourt informed MailOnline: ‘Powerscourt suggested the Russian Direct Funding Fund and Gamelaya Institute on particular tasks regarding the Gamelaya Institute’s medical growth of their Covid-19 vaccine, together with the Lancet publication of the Part III medical trial outcomes which happened on February 2, 2021 and, in line with the publication, which was peer reviewed, confirmed substantial efficacy.
‘Powerscourt offered scientific communications recommendation across the trial outcomes and scientific publication. We had no involvement within the trials and didn’t make claims in regards to the trials.’
They added: ‘Retweets usually are not endorsements. Powerscourt has not labored with RDIF since early 2021.’
The Sputnik vaccine has been mired in controversy since Russia rushed it via approval earlier than it had been correctly studied and examined in late 2020.
Consultants mentioned on the time it was harmful however these fears didn’t materialise in the actual world, with tons of of thousands and thousands of individuals now vaccinated with the jab worldwide — principally in creating nations, the Center East and components of japanese Europe.
Mr Putin was accused of attempting to raise the nation’s worldwide standing by being seen to be the primary to have a vaccine for the illness — and it was given its identify as a nod to the world’s first house satellite tv for pc, Sputnik.
It makes use of the identical know-how as AstraZeneca’s vaccines that includes educating the physique combat off Covid by utilizing a weakened widespread chilly virus.
Russia was accused of making an attempt to steal proprietary details about the UK jab from labs in Oxford in 2020.
The UK’s cyber safety watchdog mentioned it was ’95 per cent’ assured ‘Russian intelligence companies’ have been liable for the assaults on drug corporations and analysis teams. Comparable assaults have been carried out within the US and Canada, it mentioned.
It was by no means revealed if the Kremlin managed to entry delicate medical data.
However quite a few investigations and reviews have discovered proof of Russia making an attempt to intervene and undermine vaccine rollouts all over the world.
A probe by the US State Division in April 2021 mentioned Russia was behind an unlimited marketing campaign ‘to unfold propaganda and lies’ in regards to the American-made Pfizer and Moderna jabs.
The next month the EU Exterior Motion Service (EEAS) — the EU’s defence ministry — warned that Russia was utilizing state-controlled media in addition to social media, ‘together with official diplomatic social media accounts’, to unfold its propaganda.
A press launch issued by Powerscourt, the UK communications consultancy who dealt with Sputnik’s media profile for a lot of the pandemic, clamed the Russian vaccine was essentially the most environment friendly Covid jab on the earth
One other press launch distributed by Powerscourt bragged a few ballot which claimed to indicate Russia was essentially the most trusted vaccine maker on the earth, and Sputnik essentially the most recognisable jab. It was based mostly on about 9,000 adults in India, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, Argentina, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates and Serbia
The EEAS described Russia’s efforts as a ‘whole-of-government strategy’ involving state authorities, state corporations and state mass media.
The ministry took particular intention on the official Sputnik Twitter account, which it mentioned ‘sought to undermine public belief’ in medical regulators.
The Sputnik account has additionally been utilized by the Kremlin to undermine Western jabs and assault its critics.
On April 23 2021, it printed unfounded claims that vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson have been killing extra individuals than nations have been formally disclosing.
Professor Carl Bergstrom, a biologist on the College of Washington, mentioned on the time they have been ‘fully nonsense statistics’, including that ‘nobody with an iota of quantitative understanding would do that, except attempting to deceive’.
The claims, made in a ‘Sputnik V examine’, checked out anybody who died from any trigger and had obtained at the least one Western vaccine in an try to query their security profiles.
Sputnik’s account claimed the examine confirmed ‘there are considerably extra deaths following vaccination with Pfizer than with AstraZeneca vaccine per 1million administered doses.’
Observe-up tweets on April 26 took an much more aggressive tone, accusing vaccine makers of ‘pressuring media to not report’ the figures.