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EU won’t be allowed to interact with Russia independently on vaccine issue — Lavrov

Countries should engage in a more candid dialogue, because the problem of novel coronavirus will be a long-standing one, Lavrov said
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Russian Foreign Ministry's press service/TASS
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
© Russian Foreign Ministry's press service/TASS

MOSCOW, February 19. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov thinks that the EU structures will hardly be allowed to work with Russia independently on the issue of vaccines against the coronavirus.

"By the way, speaking of who is undertaking which steps in order to stop the relations from a further collapse at least a little bit. When EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell was going to come to Moscow, this is precisely what we were thinking about. He proposed to work together on healthcare, vaccines," the top diplomat said in an interview with the RBC TV channel. "It is not likely that the European Union as a Brussel’s structure will be allowed to independently contact Russian institutions, get involved in interaction in the sphere of vaccines. Most likely we will interact directly with manufacturers of AstraZeneca as it is already happening," he explained.

Russia is receiving more and more requests from European countries for supplies of its Sputnik V anti-coronavirus vaccine, the Russian foreign minister said.

"Today, many countries (the Czech Republic and a number of others) say they want to wait until the Sputnik V vaccine is certified by the European Medicines Agency. In Hungary, they say they are ready to address the matter. Supplies are beginning. The number of requests from Europe is constantly growing. Not long ago, we received a request from Prince Albert II of Monaco to supply vaccines for the entire Monaco’s population," he said in an interview with the RBC television channel.

Commenting on how the West is changing its attitude to the Russian vaccine, the minister noted that the situation could be described by a proverb "the cat would eat fish and would not wet her paws." "The West understands that Sputnik V is indeed, if not the best, but surely among the best. Otherwise we would not have such a flow of requests for this vaccine and it is growing exponentially," he stressed.

On the other hand, he went on to say, Europe understands that the very fact of Sputnik’s V winning the international market means that Russia’s authority and reputation on the global arena is growing. "They don’t want it. But they have come to realize that their first reaction was absolutely disgraceful, both from the point of view of facts and from the point of view of the medical science. After Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the vaccine in August 2020, attacks were absolutely undiplomatic and simply revealed irritation," Lavrov added.

But after independent scientific opinions were released, the West "had to admit that the vaccine is good," he noted. "But, nevertheless, attempts to discredit it continue." He recalled French President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial statement where he had claimed that Russia and China were among those who were seeking to win advantages on the global arena by means of their medical achievements. He also recalled President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen’s remarks on February 17 "with a very negative connotation concerning the deliveries of the Russian vaccine to other countries."

"We must continue to stick to the very right principled position voiced by Russian President Vladimir Putin that we were the first to make the vaccine and will expand its production. It is not an easy task and we don’t have enough production facilities. That is why we try to reach agreements with India, South Korea and other countries. He also said that we are open for the widest cooperation," Lavrov pointed put.

"Another important thing. When the United Nations discussed this problem several days ago, Secretary General Antonio Guterres calls on countries that either have this vaccine or have money to buy it not to forget about poor ones. And we are being accused of seeking to win geopolitical points through supplies of the vaccine to foreign countries. So, a contradiction is quite obvious and, of course, the West was poorly prepared for this discussion," the Russian top diplomat stressed.

When asked whether Europe’s attitude to Sputnik V really stemmed from its Russian origin, the minister noted that he saw no other reason because no one had even tried to conduct any medical or scientific analysis. "It was just said from the very beginning that it could not be at all, that no one could ever do it that quickly. The West said it could tell what it had achieved only in October 2020. But Russian President Vladimir Putin said already in August that the Russian vaccine was ready," Lavrov noted. "Regrettably, I see it very often that the first reaction to everything we do, say or suggest is wary. And it is in a best-case scenario. As a rule, they say that Russians are playing their geopolitical games again.".

'In one boat'

Countries should engage in a more candid dialogue, because the problem of novel coronavirus will be a long-standing one, Lavrov said.

"We all are in one boat, and it’s not particularly big. At the moment, it [COVID-19] is projected to become a seasonal infection. Moreover, it won’t be like influenza or other diseases, and will require constant precautions and use of personal protection equipment," he said. "Realization of this should somehow spur states to engage in more candid cooperation, especially those who had doubts about it until recently."

According to Russia’s top diplomat, attempts are being made within the World Health Organization (WHO) to replace the international law with the rule-based order.

"Instead of forging solutions on a platform with universal representation, where you need to engage in debates and search for balance and compromises, it [the concept of rule-based order] stipulates that all decisions are to be made together with those who share your point of view. After that, those decisions are portrayed as the ultimate truth and imposed on others as a binding agreement," the minister said.

However, among positive news in the international cooperation domain, Lavrov mentioned the US return to the World Health Organization and debates on equal cooperation within the WHO framework in the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council.

"Anyway, people’s health is a sphere that should be free of geopolitical games, if only someone is not pursuing the conspirological target of reducing the global population," he said.

At the same time, Lavrov said Western partners had not yet replied to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to ease global trade. According to the initiative, voiced during the G20 summit on March 26, 2020, "green corridors" free from trade wars and sanctions, primarily for essential goods, food, medicine and personal protective equipment needed to fight the pandemic.

On August 11, 2020, the Russian Sputnik V preparation became the first registered vaccine against the coronavirus worldwide. Russia has already submitted an application to register this preparation in the EU and also with the World Health Organization. On February 5, Josep Borrell stated that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will be able to certify Sputnik V since its high efficacy has already been proven. Hungary became the first EU country to receive samples of the Sputnik V vaccine for research. Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Finland have already expressed interest in the possible use of the Russian preparation or its local production in case of its approval.