A small victory for Russia
Amid the rising criticism towards the EU vaccine rollout; a victory for Russia this week when a study published by the Lancet on Tuesday revealed the Sputnik vaccine is highly effective. Good news for Putin, in a week when international attention towards the Navalny-case was only increasing. What did the European press write about the results of this recently published study? And did this ‘major scientific and political win’ withdraw some attention from the swelling protests?
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What did the European press write about the results of this recently published study?
President Putin must have shown a rare smile on Tuesday”, wrote Dutch newspaper NRC. “Russia gains new leverage with vaccine breakthrough” stated Politico. The outcome of the Lancet-study published on Tuesday, that showed Sputnik V turned out to be 91.6 effective, was a “major scientific and political win” for Moscow, according to France 24, especially now that the EU is facing anger over the slow rollout of its vaccination campaign. The vaccine is slowly overcoming widespread scepticism that it received within the international community, writes Spanish newspaper El País. Just a few days earlier on January 30, Deutsche Welle still questioned the reliability of the vaccine, quoting the negative experiences of Russians that already received the shot.
And will Sputnik now also make it to Europe?
Probably not any time soon. The news that the jab is highly effective is a “reason to cheer in regions like the Middle East, South America” writes Politico, as well as countries in the EU periphery and Hungary, which approved Sputnik two weeks ago. The chances that the vaccine will also make it to the EU are however pretty low, state Hensen & Duursma in NRC. First because it needs to be approved by the European Medicines Agency – and at present there is still confusion as to whether the Sputnik manufacturer has applied for approval at all – second, because the EU only negotiates with developers who have production capacity in the EU, which Sputnik doesn’t have. Der Spiegel however quotes German Health Minister Jens Spahn, who told in a press conference that there had been a request to see whether the vaccine could be produced in Germany, or Europe. Angela Merkel said that “every vaccine is welcome in the EU.”
And did the Sputnik-study withdraw some attention from other Russia-related news this week; the Navalny case?
Maybe some, but definitely not all. In the European press, all eyes were focussed on Navalny and the swelling protests throughout the country. On Tuesday, a Russian court sentenced the Kremlin critic with more than two-and-a-half years prison. The verdict was met with sharp criticism in European newspapers. “Convicting a poisoned man for not complying with the requirements of justice is ultimate cynicism” wrote Austrian newspaper Die Presse. Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant compares Putin’s brutal crackdown on protests to the situation in Belarus. Czech newspaper Hospodarske novinytakes the comparison even further suggesting that “from the number of police vehicles, one might think that these were photos of Myanmar after the military coup.” At the same time, this can also be a tipping point, states Benoît Vitkine for Le Monde. The affair shows that change is taking place at the Russian top he says.
And besides criticism and compliments for Russia, what else made the news in Europe this week Erik, starting with Italy?
It is no wonder that Mario Draghi is back on the front pages of Italy's newspapers. Italian President Matarella nominated the former head of the ECB as a candidate for prime minister. In addition to Draghi's return, the media have highlighted the study published by the Italian statistics centre that found out that 98% of people who lost their job during the pandemic were female. Yes, 98%. Corriere della Sera could not have defined it better with the title of its article: Covid is also a gender issue. In addition, La Repubblica also published on its front page an interview with the President of the European Commission in which she stated that by the end of the summer 70% of Europeans will have received a vaccine against the coronavirus.
And how about France?
Covid is becoming a nightmare for president Macron’s team. Last Friday, the French prime minister held a press conference in which he sidestepped a third confinement that seemed inevitable, by closing large-scale shopping centres and establishing stricter controls at the French border. On the other hand, numerous media have picked up on what Le Figaro calls "the failure of French science". The withdrawal of Pasteur and the delays in the development of Sanofi's vaccine are a setback for the French pharmaceutical industry. Although Macron in an interview for Le Figaro promises that vaccines will be available by the end of the summer for all those who decide to be vaccinated.
Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen
Image : Marco Verch Professional Photographer, CC BY 2.0