Russia wants Slovakia to return its Sputnik V vaccines

Russia has asked Slovakia to return its Sputnik V vaccine shots “due to multiple contract violations.”

PRAGUE (AP) — Russia asked Slovakia on Thursday to return its Sputnik V vaccines it has received “due to multiple contract violations.”

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

It tweeted Slovakia’s State Institute for Drug Control “has launched a disinformation campaign against Sputnik V and plans additional provocations.”

The Slovak institute said the network of EU certified labs tests only vaccines registered in the European Union, which is not the case of Sputnik. It added it doesn’t know details about the Russian-Slovak contract because it was classified.

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

It said the vaccine delivered to Slovakia is different from the Sputnik V vaccine that is considered 91% effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely 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 body’s regulator, the European Medicines Agency, started a rolling review of the vaccine last month. The Slovak drug agency said the Sputnik V vaccine being reviewed by the EU is also different from the one sent to Slovakia.

The Russian side called it “fake news.”

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

But the Slovaks said those vaccines seem to “have only the name in common.”

Slovakia’s coalition government collapsed last month after Prime Minister Igor Matovic orchestrated a secret deal to buy 2 million Sputnik V vaccines 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 the finance minister and deputy prime minister in the new government that was sworn in last week, was in Moscow on Thursday to discuss further vaccine deliveries. The Russians said Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that bankrolled the vaccine and markets it abroad, had “a productive meeting” with Matovic.

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

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

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Daria Litvinova in Moscow contributed.

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