Russia wants Slovakia to return its Sputnik V vaccines

PRAGUE (AP) – Russia asked Slovakia on Thursday to return the Sputnik V vaccines it received “due to multiple breaches of contract”.

The official Twitter account for the Sputnik V vaccine said that the Slovak drug regulator “in violation of the existing contract and in an act of sabotage” tested Sputnik V “in a laboratory that is not part of the Official Control Laboratory laboratory’s network EU medicines ”.

He tweeted that the State Drug Control Institute of Slovakia “has launched a disinformation campaign against Sputnik V and plans additional provocations”.

The Slovak institute said the EU’s network of certified laboratories tests only vaccines registered in the European Union, which is not the case with Sputnik. He added that he does not know details about the Russian-Slovak contract because he was classified.

The announcement was published just hours after the Slovak regulator said it did not receive enough information about the Russian vaccine from its producer to be able to assess its benefits and risks. The Slovak institute said that about 80% of the requested data has not been provided.

He said the vaccine delivered to Slovakia is different from the Sputnik V vaccine, which is considered 91% effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming seriously ill with COVID-19, according to a study published in the Lancet.

Sputnik V has not yet been approved for use in the EU, but the agency’s regulator, the European Medicines Agency, began a continuous review of the vaccine last month. The Slovak drug agency said the Sputnik V vaccine being revised by the EU is also different from the one sent to Slovakia.

The Russian side called it “fake news”.

“All Sputnik V lots are of the same quality and undergo strict quality control at the Gamaleya Institute,” he said. “The quality of Sputnik V has been confirmed by regulators in 59 countries.”

But the Slovaks said that these vaccines appear “to have only the common name”.

Slovakia’s coalition government collapsed last month after Prime Minister Igor Matovic orchestrated a secret deal to buy 2 million vaccines from Sputnik V, despite disagreements from his coalition partners. Matovic welcomed the first 200,000 Russian vaccines at an airport on March 1.

Matovic, who now serves as finance minister and deputy prime minister of the new government that took office last week, was in Moscow on Thursday to discuss new vaccine deliveries. The Russians said that Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which financed the vaccine and marketed it abroad, had “a productive meeting” with Matovic.

But the fund demanded that Slovaks send Sputnik V to an EU-certified laboratory for testing and asked them to return the vaccines they received so they “could be used in other countries”.

“Congratulations, idiots,” said Matovic in a Facebook message to opponents of the Sputnik deal. He said he is not ready to give up and plans to announce his next steps on Friday.

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Daria Litvinova in Moscow contributed.

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