A worker sanitises a shipment of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) after its arrival at the airport, in Caracas, Venezuela March 29, 2021. REUTERS
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed possible cooperation on vaccines with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a joint video conference on Tuesday, Macron's office and the Kremlin said.
The Kremlin said in a statement that the trio had discussed the outlook for Russia's flagship Sputnik V vaccine being registered across the EU as well as potential deliveries and joint production of the vaccine inside the EU.
The European Union's regulator -- the European Medicines Agency -- has yet to grant its approval to Sputnik V, but is reviewing it, and some individual EU member states have either approved it or are assessing it for approval at a national level.
Use of the Russian vaccine has divided the 27-nation bloc with some such as Thierry Breton, the EU's internal market commissioner, saying it has no need for Sputnik V and others, such as Charles Michel, who chairs EU summits, accusing Moscow of using vaccines for propaganda, something it rejects.
Behind the scenes, the bloc is showing increased interest in the Sputnik V shot, EU diplomatic and official sources have told Reuters.
Macron and Merkel had also told Putin to respect jailed political opponent Alexei Navalny's rights and to preserve his health, the French presidency said in its statement.
The Kremlin said Putin had explained what it called the "objective circumstances" of Navalny's case, which saw him jailed last month for two and a half years on charges he called politically motivated. He has since alleged he is not getting proper medical treatment.
The three leaders also discussed the situation in Ukraine, Belarus, Libya, Syria and agreed to coordinate efforts so that Iran returned to full compliance with its international obligations, the French statement said.
Putin used the call to accuse Ukraine of provoking armed confrontation with pro-Russian separatists and of failing to honour earlier agreements over its war-torn east, the Kremlin said.