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Surprise shipment of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine sparks political crisis in Slovakia

The move was made possible after approval from Health Minister Marek Krajci, who represents Matovic’s Ordinary People movement in his four-party coalition.

Matovic’s coalition partners weren’t impressed.

Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok from the pro-business Freedom and Solidarity party says he wants to consult the country’s leaders over the purchase. Korcok said he clearly considered the vaccine a tool in Russia’s hybrid war against the West.

Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic, right, and Health Minister Marek Krajci at Kosice Airport.

Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic, right, and Health Minister Marek Krajci at Kosice Airport.Credit:AP

“This political tool divides us at home and abroad,” Korcok said. He said the purchase cast doubts on his country’s clear pro-Western orientation.

Another coalition partner, the For People party, meets later on Tuesday to discuss further steps. Its leader, deputy Prime Minister Veronika Remisova, repeatedly said that Sputnik V can’t be used unless approved by the EU’s drug regulator.

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“We also care about the health of our citizens and their inoculation, but only with the vaccines whose safety and effectiveness have been verified,” Remisova said.

President Zuzana Caputova said she was in favour of using “all available and safe vaccines” to protect people’s lives, but that Sputnik V wasn’t one of them because “there’s no responsible authority to guarantee its safety.”

Caputova spoke on Tuesday after meeting the head of Slovakia’s drug agency, Zuzana Batova, who said to use an unregistered vaccine is “highly risky.”

But with Western vaccines rolling out slowly, Matovic, the prime minister, argued his country “is not in a position to rely only on European solutions.”

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The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Slovakia has risen over the past two weeks from 1.78 deaths per 100,000 people on February 15 to 1.81 deaths on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Matovic called on his coalition partners to “put aside the politics for a while.”

He said the 2 million Russian vaccine doses could help solve “the worst crisis since World War II.”

So far, 7388 people died of COVID-19 in the nation of 5.4 million. A record 4042 coronavirus patients were hospitalized Monday.

AP

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