EU considers vaccine boost from Russia's Sputnik

Publicly, the European Union has dismissed Russia's global vaccine campaign.

But behind the scenes, the bloc is turning to Moscow's Sputnik V shot as it tries to get its stuttering efforts to vaccinate its 450 million people back on track.

That's according to EU diplomatic and official sources.

An EU official who negotiates with vaccine makers on behalf of the bloc told Reuters that governments were considering launching talks with Sputnik V developers.

And it would take requests from four EU states to start the process.

Hungary and Slovakia have already bought the Russian shot.

And the Czech Republic is also interested.

The official added that Italy was considering using the country's biggest vaccine-producing bioreactor to make Sputnik V.

That would be at a plant near Rome operated by Italian bio-tech firm ReiThera.

Brussels has come under fire for the bloc's slow vaccine roll-out, with cases still high across the region.

The EU has approved four vaccines so far, but production glitches have slowed its inoculation campaign, leaving some member states seeking their own solutions.

The EU has expressed doubts about Sputnik V, citing a lack of data and dismissing the vaccine as a Kremlin propaganda tool.

But if Rome agrees a deal with ReiThera, it would be the most significant endorsement of Sputnik V yet.

And if the vaccine were to join the EU's arsenal, it would be a diplomatic triumph for Russia.

Its trade with the bloc has been hampered for years by sanctions.

Ties between Russia and the West have come under renewed pressure recently over the treatment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.