The secret procurement of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, that Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovic organised, has triggered a serious split in the ruling coalition of the small European country.
According to Slovak media, the government of Slovakia purchased the Russian vaccine covertly. Supposedly, Matovic did not consult his colleagues in the ruling coalition when making the decision.
On Monday, March 1, 200,000 out of two million ordered doses of Sputnik V arrived in Slovakia.
The ruling coalition of Slovakia includes:
Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok (Freedom and Solidarity) said on Tuesday that the Russian vaccine was a "hybrid warfare tool." The Foreign Minister asked for a meeting with the leading politicians of the country: President Zuzana Caputova, Parliament Speaker Boris Kollar and Igor Matovic, from whom he wanted to hear assurances that the purchase of the Russian vaccine could not change Slovakia's European and transatlantic choice.
"Neither me nor anyone in the government thought about welcoming vaccines from other countries," he said.
Some members of the coalition, in particular Tomas Valasek (For the People) announced that he was withdrawing from it.
According to Korcok, the issue of the Russian vaccine divides the Slovaks and testifies to the failure of the European Union to develop a common position on this issue. The official also criticized the ceremony that Matovic arranged to welcome the arrival of the aircraft with the first batch of Russian vaccine at Kosice airport.
According to Igor Matovic, the decisive factor in buying the Russian vaccine was its efficacy of 92 percent and the positive assessment that it received from scientists and experts in The Lancet medical journal. Matovic reminded that even before the decision to buy Sputnik V, the opponents of such a move believed that the Minister of Health Marek Krajci had the right to import the vaccine for use in Slovakia without the approval from the EU regulator.
The prime minister said that Krajci signed such an agreement.
At the same time, Kollar's We Are Family party supported Matovic.
The coalition that Matovic formed enjoys a constitutional majority. A possible departure of two partners means the loss of even a simple majority.
Although the Slovaks already have the first batch of the Russian vaccine, it is not likely to reach the Czech Republic soon. President Milos Zeman, who recently asked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for this, received a response from Moscow saying that the volume of production did not make it possible yet to positively respond to all requests for Sputnik V.
The main difference between the Czech Republic and Slovakia is that Czech Health Minister Jan Blatny, unlike his Slovak counterpart, makes the use of Sputnik V dependent on its registration with the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
"He has not change his position," Blatny's press secretary Barbora Peterova said.
Slovakia, like the Czech Republic, is one of those EU countries that has suffered from the pandemic most. As of March 2, the total number of infected people in Slovakia amounted to 314,359. Of these, 7,489 died. The state of emergency has been extended until March 19 and has been in effect continuously from March 13, 2020. From March 3, a curfew is introduced throughout the country from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. From 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. it is allowed to leave the place of residence only when necessary and justifiable.
In the midst of such a crisis, any statesman, such as Matovic, objectively needs to use all the possibilities for purchasing vaccines, given the fact that supplies from European and American manufacturers have been delayed.
Vaccination with Sputnik V in Slovakia will be voluntary. Those who do not want to take the Russian vaccine can wait for EU-approved vaccines to arrive, and those who choose health and life will be vaccinated.
It appears that those parties that want to make Sputnik V a tool of geopolitics will not gain enough support to make their way into parliament in the next elections. In addition, in domestic life, if Freedom and Solidarity positions itself as a liberal party, it must leave the right to people to choose. Otherwise, the Slovaks will prefer other liberals instead.
The troops of the Southern and Western military districts will begin to return from Russia's southern borders to the points of their permanent deployment starting April 23