KIEV: Anti-vaccine protesters rally in Kiev yesterday. Hundreds of protesters blocked roads in central Kiev yesterday to demonstrate against Ukraine’s anti-COVID measures and vaccine drive, as the country battles a fresh wave of infections. – AFP

KIEV: Hundreds of protesters blocked roads in central Kiev yesterday to demonstrate against Ukraine’s anti-COVID measures and vaccine drive, as the country battles a fresh wave of infections. One of Europe’s poorest countries, ex-Soviet Ukraine is battling spiralling cases, blamed in part on the highly contagious Delta variant.

A low vaccination rate has worsened Ukraine’s outbreak as people are hesitant to get jabbed despite repeated calls from the authorities. Yesterday, protesters in the capital Kiev held up posters reading “Stop the fake pandemic”, “Say “No” to genocide!” and “Say “No” to lies”. Computer science teacher Oleksiy Mykytenko told AFP that he was suspended from work after refusing to get a jab.

“Why are my rights being violated? Why should I get injected with some substance?” Mykytenko, 48, said. There are currently four vaccines available in Ukraine: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Chinese-made Coronavac. Ukrainian officials recently said that the anti-vaccination campaign is organised by Russia as part of its efforts to destabilise the situation in Ukraine. In an article for the Ukrinform news agency, first deputy secretary of the national security and defence council, Ruslan Demchenko, pointed the finger at “Russian intelligence services”.

He said they use social media to “undermine confidence in vaccination” and show that the restrictions imposed to contain a surge in infections are “an attack on human rights”. Russia has not responded to these allegations. Yesterday, the country of around 40 million people reported 14,325 new coronavirus cases and 595 deaths from the virus over 24 hours. While the vaccination drive has accelerated in recent weeks after authorities imposed restrictions on the unvaccinated entering public places, only 26 percent of Ukrainians are fully vaccinated. – AFP