The announcement, made by the Russian leader in a phone conversation with his Tajik counterpart, according to a Kremlin reading, came after the typically stone-faced Putin adopted a different tone on Monday as he admitted that the latest wave of COVID-19 threatened his own. Inner “circle” and may need to be quarantined accordingly.
Speaking at a public event in the Kremlin, Putin said: “The problems with COVID-19 have even happened even in my surroundings. We need to understand what is really going on. I think I’ll have to quarantine myself soon. A lot of people are sick around me. The president did not specify who in his entourage had been infected.
The third wave of COVID-19 in Russia was particularly brutal. According to a government report released last month, 215,000 Russians died from the virus in July, a 42% increase from the same period last year. But even taking into account the appalling death toll, the statement by the country’s leader, known for his “macho” lifestyle, has emerged as particularly vulnerable and surprising journalists who have been covering Putin for decades.
“As much as possible, what we have confirmed [in the past] are his sports trauma, a damaged foot or back, ”Pavel Lobkov, a veteran Russian television reporter told the Daily Beast. “I remember that during his first term from 2001 to 2004, Putin basically drank beer from the same cup as us, the journalists at the Kremlin swimming pool. He was never germophobic, like [former Romanian dictator] Nicolae Ceaușescu, who washed his hands in alcohol after each handshake.
The Russians pay a heavy price for the classic fatalism of the nation. The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is sweeping the country, killing thousands. To make matters worse, Russians are still skeptical of state-registered vaccines; only 31 percent of Russia’s 144 million people have been vaccinated. Putin received his anti-COVID Sputnik V shot in the spring. “I can say that our vaccine is really working,” he said at the time.
Several senior Kremlin officials, including Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, were infected with the virus in the early months of last year’s pandemic. Through it all, the Kremlin often boasted of the president’s “perfect health” and the “disinfection tunnels” of his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, on the outskirts of Moscow. Anyone visiting the president must go through the tunnels, which are fitted with facial recognition technology and test visitors’ body temperatures, according to the state news agency RIA, which posted what it says is a video. . images tunnels.
Putin also spent considerable time during the pandemic hiding in his beach house in the resort town of Sochi on the Black Sea. Last year, a Russian investigative newspaper, Proect, reported that Putin had set up identical offices in his two residences for televised speeches, so the Russians would not know if the president was in Moscow or at his house on the beach.
In September 2020, The Daily Beast interviewed several hoteliers and taxi drivers in the Altai Mountains, a beautiful region bordering Central Asia. At the time, rumors were circulating that Putin had spent weeks at Gazprom’s residence in the Altai Republic. “While the Russians are dying like flies, the Kremlin is hiding Putin in an underground cave,” Leonid Zaitsev, a taxi driver and local guide, told the Daily Beast at the time.
Since then, the virus has continued to spread through the Russian parliament, infecting and re-infecting members of the lower and upper chambers. In December 2020, out of 11 infected deputies, at least five deputies had tested positive for the second time, according to Duma Speaker Vladimir Volodin.
Fast forward to June this year, when Moscow broke its own pandemic record, registering 9,120 new cases of COVID-19.
Discussing the special precautions taken to protect the president from the virus, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in July: “You know that during work some people might contact sick people, some of the interlocutors of the president could have been ill. Peskov added that Putin’s visitors undergo “very thorough testing.” Still, the situation was “far from normal,” admitted Peskov.
But there are often motives underlying such statements by Putin and his spokesperson.
Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin analyst, offered his interpretation of the president’s recent remarks to the Daily Beast: “The president spoke about quarantine to prepare Russians for forced vaccinations,” Markov said. “Compulsory vaccination will start right after the legislative elections this week. “