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Russia, China reject notion they are using COVID-19 vaccines to increase political influence


Critics in the West accuse them of trying to improve their influence, while Moscow and Beijing say Western countries are hoarding vaccines.

Image credit: AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

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Russia and China on Tuesday rejected accusations they were seeking to use coronavirus

vaccines to project their influence around the world. Speaking to reporters after talks with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted that both countries were guided by principles of “humanity” rather than geopolitical interests. “Russia and China have been models of openness, cooperation, and mutual assistance,” Lavrov said in the southern Chinese city of Guilin in comments released by his ministry. When it comes to tackling the coronavirus pandemic, he said, it is important to be guided by “humanity and the interests of saving lives” rather than “geopolitical considerations and commercial approaches”.

“Everyone, including our Western partners, who are trying to make Russia and China look like some sort of opportunists in the field of so-called ‘vaccine diplomacy’ should absolutely remember that,” Lavrov added. “This is absolutely divorced from reality.”

Wang said it was wrong to suggest China was “scheming to conduct some kind of vaccine diplomacy”, accusing some countries of “selfish mass hoarding of vaccines”.

“Our intention from the start is to let more people receive the vaccine as soon as possible,” he said. “For China and Russia, our choice is not to benefit only ourselves, but rather to help the whole world.”

China, where the coronavirus originated, has been supplying several countries with vaccines, sometimes for free.

Russia has been proudly distributing its Sputnik V vaccine, named after the first satellites launched by the Soviet Union.

Critics in the West accuse the two powers of using the vaccines to extend their global influence, while Moscow and Beijing say Western countries are buying up and hoarding vaccines, often to the detriment of poor countries.

Also read:  COVID-19 vaccine: The journey from a global necessity to a political tool 

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Updated: March 24, 2021 — 5:12 am

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