Russia-Ukraine war: South Korean vaccine manufacturer braces for complications

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A South Korean pharmaceutical company manufacturing Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine said it is bracing for business complications following the West's sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine. 

Kim Gi-young, an official from Seoul-based biotech firm GL Rapha, said the sanctions won’t directly obstruct its production of the shots.

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"Right now, we are watching how the situation develops," Kim said.

The company is concerned about problems on the financial side as South Korea joins the U.S. and other European countries to cut off key Russian banks from global payment systems.

Thus far, GL Rapha has produced 5 million shots of the single-dose Sputnik Light vaccine. 

A woman cries outside houses damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Kim said none of those have been used as Russia continues to push back rollout plans.

The company also has an agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) – a wealth fund run by a close ally of President Vladimir Putin that globally markets the Sputnik vaccines – to produce 150 million shots of the two-dose Sputnik V and is participating in a consortium of South Korean companies that has been contracted to produce another 500 million doses of Sputnik V. 

Those shots have yet to be produced and recently expanded U.S. sanctions include targeted measures against the fund. 

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RDIF has reportedly criticized the sanctions and said the measures would slow its promotion of Sputnik V.

On Saturday, the U.S. and European nations agreed to impose the most potentially crippling financial penalties yet, aiming to send the ruble into "free fall" and promote soaring inflation in the Russian economy.

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It includes cutting key banks out of the SWIFT financial messaging system, which moves countless billions of dollars around more than 11,000 banks and other financial institutions around the globe each day.

"Putin embarked on a path aiming to destroy Ukraine, but what he is also doing, in fact, is destroying the future of his own country," European Union (EU) Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. 

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Dozens of foreign and international companies have pulled their business out of Russia.

World Health Organization (WHO) officials warned Wednesday that the ongoing invasion of Russian forces in Ukraine will allow COVID-19 to spread easily.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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