NEWS: Medvedchuk: The Government’s refusal to produce an anti-COVID vaccine is a criminal offense
“Kiev’s refusal to produce the Sputnik V Russian anti-COVID vaccine is a criminal offense. The statement was made during a press briefing by the president of the political council of the pro-Russian party “The Opposition Platform – For Life”, deputy Viktor Medvedchuk.
“We have the BioLik company (Kharkov) which can produce it (the vaccine e.n.). Under these circumstances, the refusal to produce the Sputnik V vaccine is a criminal offense. Since this would mean Ukraine can produce the vaccine on its territory. First of all, the state would control the whole process: it is a Ukrainian enterprise, irrespective of who owns it, and the entire manufacturing process can be controlled by Ukrainian monitoring agencies. New jobs, additional taxes and discounts – everything would benefit the state budget. If they refuse, then the authorities truly oppose the interests of people who fight the coronavirus”, the politician said.
NARRATIVES: Ukraine must accept to manufacture the Russian vaccine, as this would be profitable and would help combat COVID-19. 2. Kiev authorities have banned Sputnik V only because it is a Russian-made vaccine.
BACKGROUND: Ukraine’s relations with the Russian Federation remain tense after the invasion and incorporation of Crimea and as a result of Moscow’s support to separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. Against the backdrop of the war in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s acts of aggression, its reputation suffered a great deal in Ukraine, and pro-Russian political forces, which before the war accounted for a large share of Ukraine’s political class, have now lost momentum and part of their voters.
The Ukrainian MP who promotes the Russian vaccine, Viktor Medvedchuk, is a known associate of Russian president Vladimir Putin, while his wife, Oksana Marchenko, owns an oil refinery in Russia. At the end of one of his many meetings with various Kremlin advisers, Medvedchuk said he took the Sputnik V vaccine, and that Ukraine can manufacture the Russian vaccine in its laboratories.
Kiev authorities, on the other hand, have already announced they are not considering Sputnik V as an option to immunize its population, and that Ukraine will be receiving 8 million doses of vaccine, enough to immunize 20% of its population, under the COVAX international mechanism launched by global organizations, including the WHO. Moreover, Ukraine continues negotiations with vaccine producers certified by the WHO. The Sputnik vaccine has raised questions at the level of the international scientific community due to the lack of transparence of its Russian manufacturers. Russia subsequently made public all the data for the vaccine, but Sputnik has not yet passed the third phase of clinical trials, although the serum is already being administered to the population. On a more humorous note, the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Pehkov, once told a journalist that the Russian president cannot take the Sputnik V jab.
Pressure for accepting Sputnik V was also reinforced by a number of narratives according to which Kiev’s refusal is indicative of its Russophobia, and that the Ukrainian Government is willing to accept the death of its own citizens in order to avoid any contact with Russia, or that vaccines that will arrive in Ukraine from different sources are of inferior quality.
PURPOSE: Vaccination-related rhetoric has become a powerful instrument for the Kremlin, which seeks to promote Russia and its strength as both a scientific power, as well as a country capable of helping its allies. Specifically in the case of Ukraine, Sputnik V is a means for the pro-Russian party and politicians with close ties to Moscow to gain legitimacy. Moreover, Russia claims any vaccines Kiev is bound to receive are meant for third-world countries.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: Deputies don’t make decisions regarding the procurement of medicine. Negotiations over the manufacturing of vaccines are the remit of the Government and the Ministry of Health. The latter has explained that Ukraine will accept vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization, which have observed every testing phase and have been declared safe for population use.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: Ukraine will not accept the Sputnik V vaccine.