Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech during a plenary session of the International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in St. Petersburg on June 4, 2021.
DMITRY LOVETSKY | AFP | Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday called on the government to pave the way for foreign citizens to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in the country for an undisclosed fee.
Speaking during a plenary session at the annual International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Putin said: “The Russian pharmaceutical industry is ready to further boost the production of vaccines so that we not only fully meet our own needs.”
“We can also give foreign nationals the opportunity to come to Russia and get vaccinated here. I know that given the effectiveness of our vaccines, there is great demand,” he went on, according to a translation.
“In this regard, I would like to ask the government to analyze all aspects of this issue by the end of the month for a chance to get a vaccine on a commercial basis,” Putin said, without specifying the cost.
Russia has approved four Covid vaccines for home use. The most widely used Sputnik-V vaccine has so far been registered in 65 countries around the world, according to the Russian state fund.
The price of Sputnik V is less than $ 10 per shot, requiring two doses over a 21 day period.
Russia has been criticized for pursuing a strategy of selling or donating Covid vaccines overseas in order to expand its influence worldwide. Moscow denies that it is.
Putin’s comments come as pressure mounts on the world’s richest countries to do more to expand global access to Covid vaccines.
Equal access to vaccines is reported to be high on the agenda when the G-7 leaders meet in the UK next week.
The urgency and importance of surrendering certain intellectual property rights to Covid vaccines and treatments amid the pandemic has been underscored by WHO, health experts, civil society groups, trade unions, former world leaders, international medical charities, Nobel Prize winners and human rights organizations.
India and South Africa jointly submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organization in October last year calling for politicians to facilitate the production of Covid treatments on site and to press ahead with the global vaccination campaign.
Several months later, the proposal continues to be blocked by a small number of governments – including the EU, UK, Switzerland, Japan, Norway, Canada, Australia and Brazil.
Nord Stream 2
Regardless of this, Russia’s Putin said the first pipeline of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany had been completed. The second line is not ready yet.
The controversial 1,230-kilometer underwater pipeline is set to become one of the longest offshore gas pipelines in the world. It is supposed to deliver Russian gas to Germany directly under the Baltic Sea bypassing Ukraine.
Along with several European countries, the US is rejecting the pipeline, calling it a “bad deal” for European energy security. President Joe Biden is under pressure to do more to stop the near-completed project.
Putin is due to hold talks with Biden on June 16 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Whether the summit can make a big difference is questionable, especially given the poor diplomatic relations between the two nuclear powers.
Some U.S. lawmakers have criticized the Biden administration for giving the talks the go-ahead, pointing to the ongoing detention of opposition politician Alexei Navalny and the Kremlin’s support for Belarus after Russia’s neighbor took a commercial flight to Minsk last month had diverted.
At a press conference last month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki rejected proposals that the bilateral talks should be interpreted as a “reward” for Moscow.
“This is how diplomacy works,” she said. “We don’t only meet with people when we are in agreement. It is important to meet with leaders when we have a number of disagreements, as we do with the Russian leader.”
For its part, Russia said the two presidents will hold talks to discuss the current state of bilateral relations, strategic stability issues and current international issues such as the coronavirus pandemic and regional conflicts.
– CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt contributed to this report.