Putin Pledges First Coronavirus Vaccine Exports to Belarus

President Vladimir Putin has promised Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko the first export batch of Russia’s candidate coronavirus vaccine, Minsk said Monday.

Putin and Lukashenko spoke by phone the day after Sunday’s unprecedented protests against the Belarusian strongman’s contested re-election earlier this month. Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping were among the first to congratulate Lukashenko for what Minsk says was a landslide victory, while Western leaders condemned the violent crackdown on demonstrators and the European Union rejected the results.

Putin and Lukashenko’s phone conversation was at least their fourth since Belarus’ Aug. 9 polls.

They “discussed the situation both inside Belarus and on its outer periphery, especially in the western direction,” Lukashenko’s office said after the Belarusian leader stepped up his accusations of NATO threatening his country’s border.

On coronavirus, Putin and Lukashenko agreed that Belarusians will “voluntarily participate” in the third stage of testing for Russia’s much-vaunted Sputnik V vaccine.

Putin said earlier this month that Russia is the world’s first country to register a coronavirus vaccine, though without large-scale trials to prove its safety or effectiveness. Phase 3 trials of Sputnik V, according to its website, were set to begin Monday.

“Belarus will also be the first country to receive this vaccine,” Lukashenko’s office said following phone talks with Putin.

Lukashenko, who dismissed the global coronavirus pandemic during its outbreak earlier this year, said Monday that “the friction on our streets” has kept the number of cases high. Belarus has officially confirmed a total of 70,645 Covid-19 cases since March.

The Kremlin’s readout of the conversation makes no mention of Putin’s vaccine promise, noting only that he and Lukashenko “discussed bilateral cooperation with regard to preventing the spread of Covid-19.”

Putin Open to Getting Coronavirus Vaccine in 2021

President Vladimir Putin has floated the possibility of getting vaccinated against the coronavirus later in 2021, the Kommersant business daily reported Thursday, citing his closed-door meeting with journalists.

Putin, 68, has held off on receiving Russia’s domestically manufactured Covid-19 vaccine despite touting it as the world’s “best” jab and boasting of its first-in-the-world approval. His reluctance to get vaccinated has raised eyebrows amid Russia’s slow vaccination campaign compared to countries that launched theirs weeks later.

According to Kommersant’s account of the late Wednesday meeting with top Russian media editors, Putin said he is ready to get the Sputnik V shot as soon as his vaccine schedule permits.

“He has flu and pneumococcal vaccinations, so he’ll consult with the doctors when to receive Sputnik V because you can’t do it at the same time,” Kommersant’s Kremlin correspondent Andrei Kolesnikov said.

Putin could get the vaccine in late summer of fall “for the start of an active period where he will have to travel a lot,” Kolesnikov added, saying that two-week quarantine rules will in the meantime continue to apply for all guests that interact with him in person.

“I don’t want to monkey around,” Kolesnikov cited Putin as saying. “So I won’t do it in front of cameras.”

The Kremlin on Thursday ridiculed the barrage of leaks from Putin’s behind-closed-doors talks with the chief editors.

Late last year, Putin said he had not yet been vaccinated because it wasn’t yet recommended for members of his age group.

World leaders have been receiving Covid-19 vaccines in public to reassure members of the public of the shots’ safety.

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