The vaccination of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been the subject of speculation for months. In March, the Kremin announced that the 68-year-old Russian leader had been immunized against the coronavirus, but while the cameras have been present to document the adventures of Putin swimming butterfly in the sea, riding a horse with his torso uncovered or driving an armored car fearlessly through the Siberian Taiga, there was no graphic evidence of that puncture. And that unleashed the suspicions of the Russian citizenry, used to mistrusting the state. This Wednesday, when Russia faces record mortality figures from covid-19 and the Eurasian country faces a terrible third wave, the Russian leader has assured that he was vaccinated in February with Sputnik V, the star Russian vaccine, the first to be registered in the world; when the clinical trials had not yet concluded.
Putin, who has previously defined Sputnik V – authorized in more than 60 states and implemented in countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Belarus or Serbia – as a product “as reliable as a Kalashnikov assault rifle”, has given few details of its secret vaccination. However, he has insisted that both he and the country’s top military officials donned Sputnik V but did not reveal the chosen drug so as not to privilege it over the other three Russian vaccines. “I hope that the majority of the citizens of this country understand that if I say that I was vaccinated, then it is so,” Putin said in the first minutes of Direct line, a marathon annual television program in which the Russian leader answers questions from citizens, and which has become a central element of his agenda since the first broadcast in 2001.
Russia has once again recorded a record death toll from coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic: 669 deaths and 21,042 new infected recorded in a country that has detected cases of the most contagious Delta variant. Saint Petersburg, which hosts the Eurocup quarterfinal match between Spain and Switzerland on Friday, has also registered its worst figure (111 deaths) since the health crisis broke out.
And meanwhile, after months of triumphant speeches against the virus and lax sanitary measures (and largely unfulfilled), moreover) the Government is now making an effort to promote vaccination. Despite the fact that Russia was the first country to register a vaccine (Sputnik V) and that the free immunization campaign for the general population and of Russian nationality began last January, the drug has not finished taking off, weighed down by the distrust of the citizenship and by a feeling that the virus is not so harmful; encouraged by the opaque official death toll, which has downplayed the pandemic.
So the authorities are looking to boost immunization with formulas such as making it mandatory for certain professions. This Wednesday, Putin, who usually departs from the most controversial and unpopular decisions that he leaves regional leaders to confront to deal with discontent, has been against the vaccination that already is de facto mandatory for certain sectors. But the Russian leader, who has given examples of people in his “close circle” who have been ill from coronavirus, has tried to defend immunization as the only way to end the pandemic, and that he assured that both the Sputnik V (not yet authorized by the WHO or the European Medicines Agency) like the other three vaccines designed in Russia are safe and effective.
However, the Russian leader did not miss the opportunity to launch a dart against Western vaccines, a speech that in fact contributes to questioning vaccination in a country in which the latest polls show that up to 60% of the citizenry is reluctant to get vaccinated. “Thank God we have not had tragic situations after vaccines like after the use of AstraZeneca or Pfizer,” Putin said.
Sputnik V, designed by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow and financed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), has been a real diplomatic injection for Russia. The vaccine is more popular outside the home, where Moscow has made an effort to promote it, than indoors. However, when the Kremlin is trying to boost injections in Russia and there are some shortages in the most remote provinces, Guatemala, one of the countries that has signed supply agreements with Moscow, has ensured that Russia is missing the deadlines.
The Minister of Health of Guatemala, Amelia Flores, assured on Tuesday the Central American country has only received 150,000 doses of the 8 million paid and ordered. And he affirmed that he has demanded that Moscow return the money advanced for the failure to deliver or send the vaccines within 20 days.
After the Guatemalan criticisms, a spokesman for the RDIF (the Russian sovereign fund), has assured in a written comment that Russia will respect the deadlines and that a plane with the vaccine is scheduled to arrive in Guatemala this week and that another aircraft will fly next week. . He also assured that the RDIF, which is in charge of negotiating and processing agreements with the countries, had not received any “official” notification about the reimbursement of the money advanced.