In the rebel-held territories in Ukraine's Donbass — which have been occupied by Russian-backed separatist forces since 2014 — residents have been receiving the Sputnik vaccine since early February.
The jab has been arriving from Russia in regular vehicle convoys carrying humanitarian aid, according to Rodion Miroshnik, a rebel representative at the trilateral peace negotiations between Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The breakaway administration in Donetsk should get around 80,000 doses for the first shot, while Luhansk can count on 65,000 initial doses, he told POLITICO. He added that the rebel-held territories secured an agreement with Moscow to supply enough vaccination doses to cover a share of their populations that is "equal to Russia's regions."
"When the first stage of vaccination is completed, there will be a second one," Miroshnik said. (Like most coronavirus jabs, Sputnik V requires two shots, but as an adenovirus viral vector vaccine, it doesn't need extremely cold storage.)
His comments provide more detail following recent Kremlin confirmation that Moscow is sending the vaccine to Donetsk and Luhansk, which have a population of 2.2 million and 1.4 million, respectively. The Crimean peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014, also began a mass inoculation drive in December with Sputnik.
That's set alarm bells ringing in Ukraine. In February, the country's Deputy Prime Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said that if Russian authorities conducted "some kind of human trials with an unknown and uncertified vaccine in our country without our consent, then this is a violation of Ukrainian laws."
Sputnik has not been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and Kyiv has banned its registration outright, but the jab has been given the green light in two European countries, Hungary and Serbia.