Igor Matovic, Slovakia’s Prime Minister, has come under fire after joking that Bratislava offered to give Russia a part of Ukraine as payment for the Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V, causing outrage in Kiev and with po-faced Eurocrats.
Matovic is already a controversial figure, having taken the decision to order doses of the Russian-made formula, despite demands from his coalition partners to wait until it has been approved by the European Union’s medicines watchdog EMA.
In a radio interview, Matovic joked that Slovakia offered an exchange to Russia for the vaccine, with Bratislava receiving Sputnik V and Russia receiving Zakarpattia. The region, also known as Transcarpathia, was a part of Czechoslovakia and was taken over by the Soviet Union shortly after World War II. Since 1991, it has been controlled by independent Ukraine.
As well as a large number of Slovaks, there is also a significant Hungarian minority in the region, and Budapest has regularly accused Kiev of mistreating them. Before the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, most of the area was part of Hungary.
In response to Matovic’s statement, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba expressed regret that Matovic decided to “spoil extremely friendly and sincere relations” between the nations. The ministry itself also released a statement, calling the joke “categorically unacceptable.”
After the backlash, Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok issued an official apology for the “inappropriate statements,” following a phone call with Kuleba.
On March 1, Slovakia became the second EU country to register Sputnik V, after Hungary. The first batch of doses arrived on the same day. At a press conference, Matovic announced that the decision to buy the vaccine was made because the country doesn’t have enough doses of other Covid-19 vaccines. According to the agreed plan, they will receive two million. Matovic’s purchase was criticized by the country’s President Zuzana Caputova, who attacked the prime minister for not waiting for the EU to officially register it.
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!