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Ukrainian Lawmakers Sack Health Minister Over Pandemic Response


Health Minister Maksym Stepanov
Health Minister Maksym Stepanov

KYIV -- Ukraine's parliament has voted to dismiss Health Minister Maksym Stepanov over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and approved the resignations of the economy and infrastructure ministers.

Lawmakers ousted Stepanov in a 292-1 vote on May 18, making him Ukraine’s third health minister to be dismissed since COVID-19 hit the country last year.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, who initiated Stepanov's firing, told parliament that the minister was responsible for the "unsatisfactory pace of vaccination" against COVID-19 and failures in vaccine procurement.

Economy Minister Ihor Petrashko and Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Krykliy did not disclose reasons for their decision to leave their jobs in their resignation letters filed to the Verkhovna Rada last week.

With more than 2 million registered coronavirus infections and over 48,000 related deaths, Ukraine is among the European countries most affected by the epidemic.

The country is also lagging in its vaccination efforts, with about 950,000 Ukrainians having received their first vaccine dose as of May 18.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's economy shrank 2 percent in the first quarter of 2021 year-on-year after contracting 4 percent last year.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's cabinet has experienced significant turnover since the former comic took power in 2019.

With reporting by Reuters, Bloomberg, and AFP
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