Russia has begun supplying its Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine to the rebel-controlled region of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.
This comes despite a nationwide ban on the Russian jab by Ukrainian capital Kiev, a local news outlet said on Sunday.
The pro-West Ukrainian government is planning to receive shipments of Western-made vaccines from February.
But it has little control over Moscow-backed separatist rebels in Donetsk on its border with Russia, where conflict between Ukrainian troops and rebels has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014.
While internationally recognised as part of Ukraine, the Donetsk region is now the de facto Donetsk People’s Republic, which is backed by Moscow.
Denis Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk republic, was quoted by the republic’s news agency DAN as saying vaccinations would soon begin thanks to Russian supplies.
“A couple of thousand doses were supplied. Such deliveries will come on a regular basis,” he said. “We are grateful to Russia that it supports us in every field.”
It was not clear which institution would supply the doses. On Saturday, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which markets the Sputnik vaccine abroad, said it did not supply the Donetsk or Luhansk breakaway regions.
Pushilin said health workers and teachers were among those being vaccinated first and free of charge.
There was no immediate reaction from the governments in Kiev or Moscow on the DAN report.