Leonid Slutsky
© Sputnik/Evgeny Odinokov/Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
Leonid Slutsky
Russia's media regulator Roskomnadzor has sent a complaint to Google after the US tech giant blocked a video published by a politician, who claimed that the West is discriminating against the Russian Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V.

In a statement published on Monday, Roskomnadzor revealed that it sent a letter appealing to the heads of Google to remove all restrictions on the clip "as soon as possible."
"Roskomnadzor's letter notes that such actions by Google violate key principles of the free dissemination of information, unimpeded access to it, and are an act of censorship."
The blocked video, published by Slutsky, is part of his YouTube channel called 'Deputy Slutsky'. His videos, filmed in his office, usually deal with recently breaking news and sometimes include interviews. His restricted video dealt with the international response to Sputnik V, Russia's domestically produced Covid-19 vaccine, and the first jab to be registered by any country. According to Slutsky, the lack of approval is due to Western discrimination against Moscow.

Despite being authorized in Russia almost a year ago, neither the World Health Organization (WHO) or the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved Sputnik V. A rolling review of the vaccine began in the EU in March, and an application for registration was sent to the WHO in late 2020. In the time since several other jabs have been approved, including the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, which has a much lower efficacy than Sputnik V.

Speaking to RT earlier this month, WHO Europe Regional Director Hans Kluge explained that the organization has a long set of procedures to assure the efficacy, safety, and quality of a shot.

"Right now, the inspectors are in Russia, going to the different sites," he said, noting he was "very, very optimistic" about the prospects of approval.

Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), charged with marketing the jab abroad, later explained that the approval is slow, but the organization is showing "openness."
"We're showing that we're completely open and transparent on the production process, on the clinical trial process, on everything that's the foundation of Sputnik V."
The new spat between Google and Roskomnadzor is just the latest in a series of disputes. Last week, the watchdog revealed that YouTube, owned by Google, is yet to remove 5,200 videos deemed harmful or illicit. The revelation came just a few months after Russia opened a case against the tech giant for rejecting requests to remove banned content from its search results, including some links described as extremist, pornographic, or suicidal content.

Slutsky, a member of the far-right LDPR party, is an influential MP and the current chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs. Due to his connections within the Russian government, he was chosen by US President Barack Obama to be one of the first seven people sanctioned following the Crimean crisis in 2014.

In 2018, Slutsky became the central figure in the Russian parliament's first-ever sex scandal after four female reporters from different outlets accused the politician of sexual misconduct. He was later cleared by an internal review. Following the decision, one of the accusers, Farida Rustamova, said that the politicians simply "did not want to deal with what happened." This led to multiple outlets refusing to cover goings-on in the State Duma and other publications demanding his resignation.