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Putin calls for sanctions 'moratorium' amid pandemic

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a videoconference with G20 leaders to discuss the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on March 26, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for the lifting of sanctions on various countries that are hindering the global fight against the new coronavirus.

"I am talking about the countries that are suffering the most from this pandemic. At the end of the day, it's a question of life and death, this is a purely humanitarian issue," the Russian leader said at a virtual meeting of G20 leaders Thursday.

"Ideally we should introduce a... joint moratorium on restrictions on essential goods as well as on financial transactions for their purchase," Putin noted, adding, "These matters should be freed of any politics."

Putin also said it was important to establish "green corridors free of trade wars and sanctions" that would ensure supplies of medication, food, equipment and technology.

The Russian president predicted that the current crisis would be tougher than the financial crisis of 2008-2009 and trade conflicts and sanctions would only exacerbate it.

"We undoubtedly cannot afford to act on the principle 'every man for himself'," he said.  

He pointed out that countries needed to join forces in developing vaccines and drug treatments.

On Wednesday, diplomatic missions of Russia, China, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and warned about the negative impact of the sanctions on international efforts aimed at containing the deadly virus.

The letter described the pathogen as the “common enemy” of mankind, saying unilateral sanctions imposed by some countries were complicating the fight against the coronavirus.

The developments come as calls have been growing on the US to remove unilateral bans on Iran and some other countries amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The new coronavirus emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, incrementally infecting some 185 countries across the world.

More than 471,600 people worldwide have been infected with the virus and over 21,000 have died, according to a running count by

Iran has said unilateral US sanctions imposed on the country have seriously hampered its fight against the pandemic. The disease has so far killed 2,234 people and infected 29,406 others in Iran. A total of 10,457 people have also recovered.

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