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Vladimir Putin has entered self-isolation after a member of his entourage contracted Covid-19 despite extensive precautions.
The Russian president abandoned a scheduled trip to Tajikistan, and will not campaign in person for Sunday’s parliamentary elections which many opposition politicians have been banned from.
Putin has been fully vaccinated with the Russian coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V – receiving his second jab in April.
On Monday, he attended several public events as he met with the Russian Paralympians, attended military exercises conducted in coordination with Belarus, and also met Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Putin is ‘absolutely healthy’, but will self-isolate after coming in contact with someone who contracted the virus.
He did not 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: ‘Of course, yes.’
Peskov did not say who among Putin’s contacts were infected, saying only that there were several cases.
During his meeting with the Paralympians yesterday, Putin hinted he may need to self-isolate but then went on to hold face to face talks with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad
‘Even in my close circle, people are having issues with COVID-19,’ he told Russia’s athletes on Monday.
‘I myself may have to self-isolate soon. Many people are sick.’
Putin will work remotely, attending by videoconference a session of the CSTO Collective Security Council scheduled for this week in Dushanbe, and a meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
His stepping back coincides with huge war games seen as signalling to the West his military power and readiness while sending shivers through Ukraine.
In new footage from the Zapad-2021 drills, Su-34 bombers are seen ‘destroying’ mock enemy control centres near St Petersburg.
Crews of Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft earlier flew missions over the Luga range in Leningrad region, which detected and transmitted the coordinates of ground targets for strike aircraft via closed communication channels, said reports.
Bomber aviation flight crews then used aerial bombs supposedly testing a state-of-the-art computing subsystem.
During their meeting yesterday, Putin told Assad that the result of recent elections ‘indicate that people trust you.
‘And despite all difficulties and tragedies of the previous years, they nonetheless believe that the process of restoration and return to normal life is thanks to you.’
Putin told him: ‘I know that you have been doing a great deal for this, including for the development of dialogue with your political opponents.
‘I very much hope that this process will continue.’
During most of the pandemic, Putin shelved most of his regular trips around Russia.
Recently – with elections due at the weekend – he has toured Siberia and the far east but the self-isolation decision means an end to his campaigning.
However, surprises are unlikely in the parliamentary polls with foe Alexei Navaly in jail, and other opposition figures now in exile.