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After refusing Russia’s Sputnik V, Ukraine is left without Covid-19 vaccines while Crimea and Donbass begin rollout

After refusing Russia’s Sputnik V, Ukraine is left without Covid-19 vaccines while Crimea and Donbass begin rollout
Russia made headlines in August when it registered the world’s first vaccine against coronavirus, Sputnik V. Now, Western media has taken notice, as its rollout of the formula pulls ahead of its neighbors, including Ukraine.

In an article published on Tuesday by Bloomberg, the business news site’s Kiev Bureau Chief, Daryna Krasnolutska, argued that access to the vaccine “is now a weapon in Ukraine’s conflict with Russia.” She outlined in detail how the troubled Eastern European nation is one of only a few countries on the continent that has not yet begun immunizations, as its supplies of the jab “either haven’t been cleared for use or haven’t arrived” yet.

By contrast, Bloomberg claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had scored a “propaganda win” by making Sputnik V available in Crimea, which was reabsorbed into the country after Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan Revolution. Moscow, which considers the peninsula to be an integral part of its territory, has been working to make vials available in every region since Putin ordered the start of a mass immunization program in January.

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At the same time, however, the breakaway Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, which split from Kiev after pro-Russian local militias took control in 2014, are also set to receive deliveries of the jab. The first doses of Sputnik V will be sent to the two effectively autonomous republics by the end of January, the RIA Novosti news agency reports.

Kiev, which has not developed its own formula, has struggled to get hold of any quantity of vaccines from overseas. In January, the country’s foreign minister insisted that Ukraine would not accept Moscow’s offer of aid, in the form of shipments of its jab, even if international regulators confirmed its effectiveness. Speaking to TV channel 1+1, Dmitry Kuleba said the “propaganda capabilities of Sputnik V far exceed its real capabilities and effectiveness,” and it would simply be used to score political points.

Previously, the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky had warned the international community that if it did not receive support from elsewhere, it would become “impossible” for his government to continue justifying not accepting offers from Russia.

Ukraine, which has grappled with a high number of coronavirus cases and a refusal of regional governors to enforce lockdown laws, received a loan of $300 million from the World Bank in December to support its efforts to get on companies’ order books for their vaccines. However, with global demand vastly outstripping supply, there have been no guarantees that any shipments would be quickly received.

Ukraine participates in the international COVAX access initiative, and will take delivery of around eight million doses, free of charge, potentially by the end of Q1 2021. However, given each person requires two doses, the four million who will benefit is just a fraction of the 30 to 35 million who call the country home.

At the end of last year, Zelensky also signed a contract with Beijing to receive 1.9 million doses of the Chinese-made Sinovac Biotech formula, for 504 Ukrainian hryvnias ($18) each.

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