Ukraine’s Zelensky gets jab on eastern ‘frontline’

Kiev, March 2 (AFP/APP): Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday received a coronavirus vaccine injection in the war-torn east, saying there was “nothing” to fear and urging others to follow his example.

The 43-year-old Ukrainian leader released a topless picture of himself receiving his jab, with a health worker disinfecting his toned shoulder. “There is nothing to be afraid of. I am setting a personal example,” Zelensky said in a post on Instagram, ahead of talks with visiting European Council chief Charles Michel.

“Did this on the frontline with our soldiers,” he added on Twitter. Zelensky received the jab in Severodonetsk, a government-controlled town located roughly 120 kilometres (75 miles) to the north of the separatist stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, his spokeswoman Yulia Mendel said.

Last week the ex-Soviet nation of 40 million people launched a nationwide vaccination campaign, following delays that sparked anger against the government in one of Europe’s poorest countries.

Ukraine has banned the use of one of the most popular vaccines in former Soviet republics, the Russian-developed Sputnik V jab, and instead has sought to source vaccine doses elsewhere.

Ukraine last week received 500,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, marketed under the name Covishield and produced in India. Zelensky on Tuesday said he had received an AstraZeneca dose in an apparent attempt to overcome skepticism towards the Indian-produced jab.

In November last year, Zelensky tested positive for the coronavirus and spent two weeks in self-isolation, first at home and then in a clinic. Ukraine’s health ministry said on Tuesday that nearly 5,000 people had been vaccinated in the first six days of the vaccination campaign.

More than 1.3 million infections have been recorded in Ukraine and more than 26,000 people have died of the virus.

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