Putin: ‘Not Just One or Two, But Several Dozen’ Staffers Have Contracted Coronavirus

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government and the United Russia political party leadership via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on September 14, 2021. (Photo by Alexei Druzhinin / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by ALEXEI DRUZHININ/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
ALEXEI DRUZHININ/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that he would “self-isolate” after someone in his entourage was diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus. On Thursday, Putin offered the surprising clarification that dozens of people in his inner circle have contracted the disease.

“This is not one, not two, but several dozen people. And now it is necessary to self-isolate for several days. Unfortunately, I cannot shake hands with each of you, hug you. But of course, we are interested in discussing key goals of our organization albeit remotely,” Putin told participants at a security conference in Tajikistan by video link. 

Putin was scheduled to attend the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) conference in Dushanbe, Tajikistan in person before he announced his decision to self-isolate.

Putin had implied Tuesday that only a few members of his entourage had tested positive, describing one unnamed individual who needed a vaccine booster shot but received it “a little late.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday the infected personnel were “mainly those who take part in ensuring the work and activities of the head of state, his security.”  

Peskov insisted “practically everybody” in Putin’s orbit has been vaccinated, presumably with Sputnik V, the Russian-made coronavirus jab. Putin himself claims to have been fully inoculated with Sputnik V.

The Moscow Times noted Sputnik V “has been approved in dozens of countries, including European nations, but is still pending approval from the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) and Western regulators.”

“Russia has several homegrown vaccines freely available to the public, but does not distribute any Western-made jabs,” the Moscow Times pointed out.

Despite offering free shots and imposing mandatory vaccination orders on some cities, including Moscow, Russia has only vaccinated a little over 40 million of its 146 million citizens, well below the 60% target the Kremlin set for September, and many of those people have taken only one of the two shots required. Al Jazeera News reported at the beginning of September that “only 13 percent of Russians have received both jabs.” 

Most observers attribute Russia’s high degree of “vaccine hesitancy” to public distrust of their government, which has a habit of lying about coronavirus case totals and declaring victory over the disease, only to see fresh waves of infections roll in.

Public confidence in Sputnik V will probably not be increased by the revelation that so many people close to heavily-protected President Putin have contracted the coronavirus. Visitors to Putin’s residence in Moscow are required to pass through garish “disinfecting tunnels” that shower them with disinfectant and ultraviolet light while scanning their faces and measuring their body temperature. The Kremlin stated in April that everyone who tries to meet with Putin in person is subjected to rigorous tests.

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