Putin Meets With Assad And Paralympians, Then Self-Isolates Over COVID-19 Cases In Inner Circle

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin is going into self-isolation because of coronavirus cases in his inner circle, the Kremlin said Tuesday, adding that he tested negative for COVID-19.

The announcement came in the Kremlin’s readout of Putin’s phone call with Tajikistan’s president. Putin has been fully vaccinated with the Russian coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, receiving his second shot in April.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Putin is “absolutely healthy,” but will self-isolate after coming in contact with someone who contracted the virus. He didn’t clarify for how long Putin would remain in self-isolation, but assured that the president will continue working as usual.

Asked if Putin tested negative for the virus, Peskov said “definitely, yes.”

Peskov didn’t say who among Putin’s contacts were infected, saying only that there were several cases.

On Monday, the Russian president attended several public events. He greeted Russian Paralympians, attended military exercises conducted in coordination with Belarus, and met with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

During the meeting with the Paralympians, Putin mentioned that he “may have to quarantine soon.”

“Even in my circle problems occur with this COVID,” the Russian leader was quoted by the state RIA Novosti news agency as saying. “We need to look into what’s really happening there. I think I may have to quarantine soon myself. A lot of people around (me) are sick.”

Asked why Putin proceeded with public events on Monday, even though he already knew that there were coronavirus cases around him, Peskov said that the decision to self-isolate was made after “doctors completed their testing, their procedures.” Peskov assured that “no one’s health was endangered” at Monday’s events.

Russia’s daily new coronavirus infections in recent weeks have plateaued around 17,000-18,000, with the daily death toll remaining just under 800, the highest level in the pandemic. Nevertheless, hardly any virus restrictions are currently in place in Russia.

Russia’s state coronavirus task force has reported a total of 7.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 194,249 deaths. However, reports by the government’s statistical service Rosstat that tally coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively reveal much higher numbers.