Ukraine leader appeals for EU vaccine help

A handout photo made available by Ukraine's Presidential Press Service shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (L) and Moldova's President Maia Sandu (R) during their meeting at Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv, Ukraine, 12 January 2021. [Handout photo/EPA/EFE]

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday (12 January) called on the European Union to help source coronavirus vaccines, as he tries to stave off criticism for failing to secure any western-made jabs.

“It is extremely important to get the vaccines,” he said after holding talks with Moldova’s newly elected president Maia Sandu, who is on her first foreign trip since becoming president in late 2020.

Zelenskiy said the EU needed to “pay extra attention” to post-Soviet nations seeking to develop closer ties with Brussels — including Ukraine and Moldova — when it came to the “joint purchase and supply of vaccines”.

Ukraine, a country of 40 million with a run-down health system, had reported more than 1.1 million cases of coronavirus and 20,019 deaths by Tuesday.

Last week, 13 EU member states urged Brussels to help the bloc’s eastern neighbours vaccinate their populations against coronavirus.

Thirteen countries call on EU to support Eastern Partnership vaccine efforts

Thirteen member states issued a call to the European Commission to support the Eastern Partnership countries in their efforts to obtain affordable and fair access to the COVID-19 vaccines, according to a joint letter seen by EURACTIV.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland and other countries made the appeal in a joint letter to the European Commission, saying that “EU has to go beyond the current initiatives.”

Some pro-Moscow politicians in Ukraine have lobbied for the introduction of the Russian-developed Sputnik V jab.

But health officials in Kyiv have so far rejected the idea, with critics seeing the Russian vaccine as a geopolitical tool.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reiterated that sentiment on Tuesday, calling Russia’s Sputnik a “propaganda tool”.

“Russia doesn’t care about the health of Ukrainians,” Kuleba said in televised remarks.

Moldova is expected to receive its first batch of coronavirus vaccines through the Covax mechanism, an initiative set up to ensure fair access to lower-income nations, by the end of January 2021.

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