Ukrainian President Zelenskyy calls for investigation into alleged COVID-19 vaccine 'smuggling'

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By Matthew Holroyd  with AFP
The Ukrainian President urged ordered the security services to "verify without delay" the claims.
The Ukrainian President urged ordered the security services to "verify without delay" the claims.   -  Copyright  Aaron Chown/Pool Photo via AP

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky has called for an immediate investigation into reports that state officials have secretly been vaccinated against COVID-19

A Ukrainian businessman stated to his news website that some lawmakers had been injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a private clinic in the capital, Kyiv. Ukraine has not yet received any doses through official imports.

According to the claims, the jabs had been illegally imported into Ukraine at the end of December on board a charter plane from Israel and the people concerned spent had €2,500 each for the two doses. Euronews has not been able to verify the claims.

On Wednesday, President Zelenskyy ordered security forces to "verify" the claims without delay.

"I have instructed the Security Service and other law enforcement officers to immediately verify the information about the alleged smuggling of the coronavirus vaccine into Ukraine," the President said on his official Telegram channel.

"If someone really thought to import the vaccine for sale secretly and in violation of the law, the reaction should be as severe as possible."

"There must be a penalty for smuggling and counterfeiting."

The President added that Ukraine has a clear vaccination plan, where people at risk those on the frontline of the pandemic will receive jabs first.

The country's Prime Minister Denys Chmygal also wrote on Telegram that he had instructed the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Internal Affairs to investigate rumours of a "possible underground vaccination".

"I am a supporter of vaccination ... I will be vaccinated at my own expense in the second or third round, when the officially registered vaccine arrives at the clinic," said Chmygal.

"Let me remind you that now Ukraine is expecting the first batch of vaccines, 1.9 million doses from Sinovac Biotech."

Ukraine announced at the end of December its intention to also buy nearly two million doses of the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine, but without specifying when it is due to receive them.

The government has been criticised for not finalising agreements to purchase Western-made vaccines, such as the one developed by Moderna, which are considered more reliable.

Kiev also hopes to receive eight million doses of vaccine in the spring from the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Covax mechanism, aimed at helping the poorest countries.

"None of the vaccines are currently certified in Ukraine," said Prime Minister Chmygal, "and I'm sure no conscious person will be vaccinated with drugs of unknown origin."