How Russia lurched from vaccine victory to Covid crisis

Russia made headlines last August when it triumphantly unveiled its pioneering coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V. But now, nearly a year on, it has a more dubious claim to fame – as the anti-vax capital of the world. For months now, sparkling clean pop-up clinics offering jabs to the public, with no appointment needed, have been open for business in shopping centres and food halls across the country. With three domestic formulas approved and millions of vials in reserve, there is no shortage of doses for anyone who wants one. And yet, Russians just aren’t signing up.  New data from research giant Morning Consult, based on 75,000 weekly interviews with people

Two spies, an explosion, and the new Czech rift with Russia

‘Putin is a murderer,’ read the signs carried by protestors outside the Russian Embassy in Prague on Sunday. On Saturday night, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš stunned the Czech Republic by stating that evidence now links Russian GRU secret agents to a massive explosion which killed two people at an arms depot near the Moravian village of Vrbětice in 2014. Czech Minister of the Interior and acting Foreign Minister Jan Hamáček gave 18 diplomats known to be linked to Russian foreign intelligence 48 hours to leave the country, and compared the situation to the Salisbury poisoning in 2018. The Salisbury parallel was underlined by the announcement of a manhunt for Alexandr

Russia’s Sputnik vaccine is causing political chaos in Central Europe

A joke is doing the rounds in the Czech Republic that the world’s highest Covid mortality rate can, in actual fact, be found in the Czech Ministry of Health. Yesterday, the Czech health minister Jan Blatný was dismissed, the nation’s third ‘Covid Health Minister’ since the pandemic began. Both his predecessors were sacked by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in the autumn of 2020. Rumours of Blatný’s departure had been in the wind for weeks. But his fall from favour seems to have little to do with the Czech Republic’s inability to contain the spread of Covid-19, and far more to do with the ongoing controversy over whether the country will join

Could the Sputnik vaccine end Russia’s rift with the West?

Accounts differ. But it would appear that during a wide-ranging conference call earlier this week, the leaders of France and Germany broached the possibility of – wait for it – buying some of Russia’s pandemic pride and joy: its Sputnik V vaccine. If a deal is struck this would be a huge boost to Russia at home and abroad, and by extension to President Putin, who has spent months trying to dispel widespread Western suspicions about the Russian vaccine, from its Soviet-era name to the breakneck speed of its development. Any deal would also represent quite a turnaround for France and Germany, whose leaders have spearheaded a Continental European reluctance

Merkel and Macron’s Sputnik U-turn

The last three months have seen a litany of humiliations for Brussels as its leaders try to procure and roll out much needed vaccines across the continent. Whether it’s been Ursula von der Leyen almost erecting a hard border in Ireland or Handelsblatt being briefed misinformation from a misread excel table, impounded meningitis jabs in Italy or doctors forced to destroy unwanted vaccines in Germany, every week seems to bring fresh ignominy and embarrassment. But now a new low appears to have been reached with today’s news that France and Germany are in negotiations to buy Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine from their implacable opponent Vladimir Putin. Putin of course was the man

Why Germany is eyeing up the Sputnik V vaccine

After the EU’s vaccine distribution disaster, German lawmakers are now taking a closer look at Russia’s Sputnik V jab. If approved by EU regulators, Sputnik V could be the fourth vaccine available in the bloc after the BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines. It’s easy to see why Germany could be tempted by the Sputnik V vaccine. The rollout of the BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna jabs has been hampered by delivery delays and political blunders. And European regulators have remained wary of AstraZeneca’s vaccine – a scepticism that was solidified by a recent trial showing that the shot may not significantly reduce the risk of mild or moderate disease caused by the

Why Merkel and Putin are cooperating on the Sputnik vaccine

Churchill, FDR and Stalin could cooperate against Hitler, so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that even amidst talk of a new Cold War, sanctions and more than a little sanctimony, people in the West are willing to make deals with Moscow in the name of fighting the new global threat, Covid-19. Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine may have been rushed through its certification at home and been the subject of some overblown nationalist hype (not that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been entirely free of the latter), but so far it appears to be a serious and effective jab, with a potential 91.4 per cent efficacy. Although based on a different