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16 Mar, 2021 14:37

Russians living in Western Europe are now fleeing Covid-19 disruption & returning home, as vaccine access stalls - Moscow’s top MP

Russians living in Western Europe are now fleeing Covid-19 disruption & returning home, as vaccine access stalls - Moscow’s top MP

With hospitals and health systems stretched by the pandemic, Russian expats working elsewhere in Europe are now forced to book flights back home in order to get treatment in the country’s own clinics, a top lawmaker has said.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of Russia’s national parliament, told a meeting with counterparts from the Council of Europe that he was concerned about the response to Covid-19 in the West, and the impact on those needing care for other conditions.

According to him, Russians who had moved elsewhere on the continent to work “faced with a pandemic and the way healthcare is organized in many European countries, are now fleeing from there and doing whatever they can to get treatment in Russia.”

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These issues should be included on the agenda for an upcoming meeting of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, the MP argued.

At the same time, Volodin slammed “the many examples of [other European nations] trying to resist the availability of Russian vaccines in their markets.” Because of the virus, he argued, “people are dying. And yet they say it won’t be made available before June? Who is responsible for this? Why, when there is a vaccine, people cannot get it? Where are the fundamental rights of our citizens [living abroad]?”

Earlier this week, the head of vaccine strategy for the EU’s medical regulator, Marco Cavaleri, told an Italian radio station that, although the Russian-made Sputnik V jab was currently being studied as part of a rolling review, it was unlikely to be given a swift green light. “In the coming weeks we will see if we can approve the vaccine,” he said. “But until the end of April we will not be ready to approve Sputnik V, but rather in May.” It is unlikely that supplies would arrive until at least the following month.

Developed by scientists at Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, Sputnik V has already been approved by health authorities in 51 countries across the world and is being routinely used or trialed in nations including India, Mexico and Argentina.

Despite that, a number of EU nations have refused to wait for the central regulator to give the go-ahead before ordering supplies, with Hungary and Slovakia working with Moscow to secure doses.

At the time, Hungarian President Viktor Orban defended the move, saying that “the pandemic must be fought with as many vaccines as possible – that we can acquire as quickly as possible.” He added that “it is irresponsible to turn the vaccines into a political issue, and let people die and restrict their freedom, because there are political objections to the country of origin.”

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