Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic has rejected the possibility of returning Sputnik V supplies to Russia, saying that the effective jab will be used to save lives in the country no matter the split in the government.
“Sputnik is not going back to Russia,” Matovic wrote in a post on Facebook, in capital letters.
The PM recalled how he was branded “Putin’s sidekick” who deserve a place in the “hall of shame” after the first batch of Sputnik V arrived in the country earlier this week, while the vaccine itself received such labels as a “geopolitical weapon of Russia” and a tool in the Kremlin’s “hybrid war.”
However, he pointed out that his opponents somehow suddenly went “dead silent” after the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which bankrolls the production and distribution of Sputnik V, offered to take the vaccine back without any sanctions against Bratislava due to all the hate that it was getting.
“I would never have given [Sputnik V] back and never would have allowed it. Never,” Matovic said.
We are an integral part of the EU, but yet I can’t refuse [the opportunity] to save our people with a quality vaccine only because it’s made in Russia… I am not a killer.
Slovakia became the second European Union country after Hungary to register Sputnik V amid shortages of the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca jabs approved by Brussels. The Russian vaccine, which boasts an efficacy of 91 percent, is still waiting to be greenlighted by the bloc’s regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA). However, members are legally allowed to import other vaccines for emergency use if they don’t come from producers that are already included in the EU’s unified immunization procurement plan.
Tensions spiked in Slovakia’s political circles after the first shipment of 200,000 doses of Sputnik V was delivered to the country on Monday and Matovic himself welcomed it at the airport. The prime minister said he decided to purchase 2 million shots of the Russian jab without waiting for EMA approval, which his coalition partners demanded, because “there was no time to waste, there’s a shortage of vaccines in the country.”
Apparently worried that the deal could anger Brussels, Slovak President Zuzana Caputova attacked Matovic for not waiting for Sputnik V’s official registration in the EU. Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok blasted the purchase, saying it was a mistake, with the “hybrid war” comment that the PM cited also coming from him. Two deputy prime ministers warned that their parties could end up quitting the four-party coalition government over the Sputnik V contract and the way they were treated by Matovic.
Slovakia has seen more than 320,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and over 7,600 deaths since the start of the pandemic. The epidemiological situation has been recently deteriorating in the country of 5.5 million and was blamed on the new, more contagious strains of the virus. Matovic earlier described the situation as “the worst crisis since World War II.”
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