Despite Ukraine ban, Russia gives Sputnik V doses to rebel-held area - media

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FILE PHOTO: Production of Gam-COVID-Vac vaccine against the coronavirus disease in Saint Petersburg

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has begun supplying its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine to the rebel-controlled region of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine despite a ban by Kyiv, a local news outlet said on Sunday.

Ukraine's government is planning to receive shipments of Western-made vaccines from February and has prohibited the use of Russia's Sputnik V.

But it has little control over Donetsk on its border with Russia, where conflict between Ukrainian troops and Moscow-backed separatist rebels has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014.

Denis Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk republic, was quoted by the region'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 supplied the doses.

On Saturday, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), 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 Kyiv or Moscow on the DAN report.

(Reporting by Anton Zverev; Writing by Maxim Rodionov and Katya Golubkova; Editing by Sam Holmes and Andrew Cawthorne)