Have you seen that article about Wednesday’s plane crash that killed Yevgeny Prigozhin? The headline appears to claim the pilot of Prigozhin’s plane suffered from heart problems related to the covid-19 vaccine, which may have caused the crash. But the screenshot is completely fake. The article simply doesn’t exist.
The article, which was made to look like it appeared on the website of Russia’s RT news outlet, included the headline, “Prigozhin pilot had post-vaccine myocarditis, heart attack may be cause of crash.” The screenshot appears to have been first shared on social media early Thursday and quickly spread.
The sub-headline of the fake article reads: “Cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been observed following receipt of COVID-19 vaccines. Evidence from multiple monitoring systems around the globe support a [sic] association between mRNA COVID-19 vaccines and myocarditis.”
The BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh was the first to debunk the fake screenshot on Twitter, the social media platform that’s now officially known as X. RT never published the article and Sardarizadeh notes the screenshot was likely created as a joke.
Prigozhin was the head of the Wagner mercenary group in Russia and launched a half-hearted coup attempt to challenge Russian president Vladimir Putin’s power in June. Prigozhin led a convoy that was heading to Moscow, but abandoned whatever he had in mind a couple hours south of the city. Reports indicated Prigozhin may have been scared off and Belarus supposedly brokered a peace arrangement, but it’s incredibly difficult to tell what actually happened.
Prigozhin was listed as a passenger on the flight that crashed yesterday, exactly two months to the day of his aborted coup. The timing, along with the fact that Putin has a long history of assassinating political opponents, has caused a lot of speculation about whether the Russian president arranged for Prigozhin’s death.
An initial assessment by the U.S. intelligence community reportedly indicates the plane crash was caused by an explosion, according to the latest reporting from the Associated Press. Notably, there were experts on CNN who were analyzing the crash who insisted it looked like a missile attack and not an explosion. And while the new report from the AP doesn’t explicitly say Putin was behind it, that’s clearly the implication.
Details, of course, remain sketchy and the White House has declined to comment, though President Joe Biden noted on Wednesday that there isn’t much that happens in Russia without Putin’s approval.
All we know for sure is that this viral screenshot blaming the pilot’s supposed vaccine-related injury is completely fake. The covid-19 vaccines, it should be noted, have been shown to be overwhelmingly safe and help protect people against serious disease.