Russia has offered to supply Finland with the technology to produce its Sputnik V vaccine, Tass news agency reported, in what observers fear is a strategic manoeuvre with political and commercial motives.
Russia’s purpose with such offers is to sow confusion in the European Union, former Finnish ambassador to Moscow Hannu Himanen told Finnish broadcaster MTV3 on Saturday, adding that Finland is one of those EU countries where Russia wants to “test the waters.”
The issue was first raised in a phone conversation between Russian parliament speaker Valentina Matviyenko and former Finnish president Tarja Halonen, who now works for the WHO’s European COVID-19 group. Halonen reportedly contacted Matviyenko at the request of the WHO to discuss the process of approving Sputnik V for use in the EU.
The offer comes as frustration mounts across Europe over the slow progress of the vaccination campaign and a rift widens between European countries pushing for a broader palette of available vaccines for their citizens and those warning about Russia’s political ambitions.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Monday described as a “Russian roulette” the decision of some EU member states to unilaterally grant market authorisation to Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine before it had been approved at the EU level.
Donald Tusk, the current chief of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), has meanwhile called on Poles and Europeans not to be “naive” about Russian and Chinese intentions in offering their vaccines to Europe.
Asked by EURACTIV if the Commission is also considering the potential political implications of authorising Sputnik V, chief spokesperson of the European Commission, Eric Mamer, said the EMA was focused only on health concerns.
“This is the only thing that we, as a responsible public organisation, can take into account when looking at a vaccine,” he said.
(Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos and Josie Le Blond)