MOSCOW—Russians have been gossiping about Vladimir Putin’s well being from the very begin of the pandemic—and the Kremlin has at all times dismissed the flood of rumors as “absolute nonsense.” However on Monday, Putin struck a distinct tone because the president admitted that the newest COVID-19 surge is threatening his personal internal “circle,” and that he might need to quarantine in consequence.
Talking at a public event at the Kremlin, Putin stated: “The issues with COVID-19 have even occurred even in my circle. We have to determine what is actually happening. I believe I’ll quickly need to quarantine. Lots of people are unwell round me.” The president didn’t specify who in his circle had been contaminated.
The third COVID-19 wave in Russia has been notably brutal. In line with a authorities report launched final month, 215,000 Russians died of the virus in July, a 42-percent enhance from the identical time interval final yr. However even contemplating the awful death toll, the assertion from the nation’s chief, identified for his “macho” way of life, got here throughout as uniquely susceptible, shocking journalists who’ve been overlaying Putin for many years.
“At a most, what we have now confirmed [in the past] are his sports activities traumas, broken foot or again,” Pavel Lobkov, a veteran Russian tv journalist, informed The Every day Beast. “I bear in mind throughout his first time period in 2001 to 2004, Putin principally drank beer from the identical cup as us reporters from the Kremlin’s pool. He was by no means germophobic, like [former Romanian dictator] Nicolae Ceaușescu, who washed his fingers in alcohol after each handshake.”
Russians are paying a heavy worth for the nation’s basic fatalism. The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is sweeping the nation, killing 1000’s. Making issues worse is the truth that Russians are nonetheless skeptical concerning the state’s registered vaccines; solely 31 percent of Russia’s 144 million individuals have been vaccinated. Putin obtained his Sputnik V anti-COVID shot within the spring. “I can say that our vaccine actually exhibits outcomes,” he said on the time.
“Whereas Russians die like flies, the Kremlin hides Putin in some underground cave.”
A number of of the Kremlin’s prime officers, together with Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, had been contaminated with the virus within the early months of the pandemic final yr. Via all of it, the Kremlin would usually boast concerning the president’s “good well being” and the “disinfection tunnels”’ at his residence at Novo-Ogaryovo, in Moscow’s outskirts. All people visiting the president should go by means of the tunnels, that are geared up with facial recognition know-how and check guests’ physique temperature, in keeping with the RIA state information company, which has printed what it says is video footage of the tunnels.
Putin has additionally spent a substantial period of time through the pandemic hidden away at his seaside home within the Black Sea resort metropolis of Sochi. Final yr, a Russian investigative information outlet, Proect, reported that Putin had arrange equivalent workplaces in each of his residences for tv addresses, in order that Russians wouldn’t know if the president was in Moscow or in his home on the seaside.
In September 2020, The Every day Beast interviewed a number of resort house owners and taxi drivers within the mountains of Altai, a ravishing area bordering Central Asia. On the time, rumors that Putin had been spending weeks on the Gazprom residence within the Republic of Altai had been swirling. “Whereas Russians die like flies, the Kremlin hides Putin in some underground cave,” Leonid Zaitsev, an area taxi driver and information, informed The Every day Beast on the time.
Since then, the virus has continued to unfold by means of Russia’s parliament, infecting and re-infecting deputies within the decrease and higher chambers. By December 2020, out of 11 contaminated deputies, a minimum of 5 MPs had examined optimistic for a second time, according to State Duma Speaker Vladimir Volodin.
Quick-forward to June of this yr, when Moscow beat its personal pandemic report, recording 9,120 new cases of COVID-19.
Discussing what particular precautions are being taken to guard the president from the virus, the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in July: “You already know that within the course of of labor some individuals would possibly contact sick individuals, a number of the President’s interlocutors may have not too long ago been sick.” Peskov added that Putin’s guests undergo “very thorough testing.” Nonetheless, the state of affairs was “removed from regular,” Peskov admitted.
However there are sometimes underlying motives to such statements from Putin and his mouthpiece.
Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin analyst, supplied up his interpretation of the president’s latest remarks to The Every day Beast: “The President talked concerning the quarantine to arrange Russians for compelled vaccinations,” Markov stated. “The compulsory vaccination will start proper after the parliamentary elections this week.”