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Slovakia’s prime minister to step down amid Sputnik V vaccine scandal

Slovakia’s prime minister has said he will step down amid a political scandal triggered by a secret deal to buy Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.

At least six of his cabinet members had already resigned, and on Sunday Igor Matovic said he had proposed swapping posts with the finance minister, and would open talks with coalition partners on a possible new government.

He added he was planning to meet President Zuzana Caputova on Monday for consultations.

The crisis erupted when a secret deal struck by Slovakia to acquire 2 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine was revealed.

Slovakia is an EU member, and the bloc has not authorized the Russian vaccine yet.

The deal was conducted despite disagreement by Matovic’s coalition partners, the Freedom and Solidarity party and For People party.

Igor Matovic defended the Sputnik V purchase, saying it would speed up the vaccination programme in one of the hardest-hit European Union countries.

Slovakia was the second EU member, after Hungary, to purchase the vaccine from Russia.

Slovakia has seen about 9,500 virus deaths in the pandemic.

Matovic agreed to resign if his major rival, Freedom and Solidarity leader Richard Sulik, and Justice Minister Maria Kolíkova from the For People party also resigned, which they did.

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