Russia’s vaccine diplomacy received a blow

Several foreign media have reported on the recent dispute over the Russian vaccine Sputnik V in Slovakia.

Igor Matovič Igor Matovič (Source: SME)

Foreign media are talking about Slovakia again. This time, the headlines focus on the recent debate triggered by the Russian Direct Investment Fund's request that Slovakia returns the batch of the Sputnik V vaccines and the subsequent involvement of ex-prime minister Igor Matovič (OĽaNO), who now holds the finance minister post.

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Several media outlets also pointed out that the recent debate on Sputnik V follows a coalition crisis, which resulted in the reshuffles of the cabinet.

A blow to vaccine diplomacy

“Russia’s vaccine diplomacy suffered a setback on Thursday when Slovakia, one of the few countries in Europe to order its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, said that the doses it purchased differed from a version reviewed favourably by a respected British medical journal,” the New York Times reported.

The daily reports on the assessment of the vaccine issued by the State Institute for Drug Control (ŠÚKL) said that the batch delivered to Slovakia was different from the one described in the Lancet magazine.

Former minister requested tests, Slovak Academy of Sciences responds Read more 

“Slovakia's statement could damage Russia’s efforts to establish Sputnik V as a reliable brand,” the daily reported.

Several other media, including Bloomberg and The Times, reported on how Slovakia’s assessment of the delivered batch might mar the efforts of Russia to administer its vaccine in Europe.

Bloomberg wrote that Slovakia was one of the few countries of the bloc pushing to use the Russia-developed vaccine to help speed the roll-out of inoculations and that the political tensions over “the push to use what one critic called ‘a tool in hybrid war’ caused a crisis that cost Prime Minister Igor Matovič his job.”

The details of the conflict have also been described by the Moscow Times, which reported on the accusations of sabotage voiced by the vaccine’s producer. The Associated Press mentioned Matovič’s Facebook post, which refers to the opponents of the vaccine as idiots.

Testing in Hungary

UPDATED: The Russian vaccine delivered to Slovakia to be tested in Hungary Read more 

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that apart from Slovakia and Hungary, which have already received the batches, several other EU countries are actively considering the vaccine, even though it has not been approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Hungarian labs will test the vaccine for Slovakia, as several foreign media outlets reported. The news was broken by Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, who met with Matovič on the afternoon of April 9.

“The move is the latest twist in a row involving Slovakia’s ex-prime minister, its drugs regulator and Russia over the quality of batches of the vaccine delivered to Slovakia in March,” the Politico magazine reported.

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