The Russians were urging them to return to normal life. Except for Putin.


MOSCOW – Officials of a secret Russian security force knew exactly what they wanted when they arrived in Olga Izranova’s company last spring.

They wanted movable tunnels that immersed people in disinfectant clouds.

“He said it had to be done very fast,” Ms Israelova recalls.

She believes that the tunnels in the coronovirus epidemic are of limited efficacy, but for her most important client, every bit counts. The Federal Protective Service, Russia’s Secret Service reply, President Vladimir V. Has helped create a virus-free bubble around Putin that has so far been out of protective measures taken by many of its foreign counterparts.

Russian journalists covering Mr. Putin have not seen him closely since March. Some people who live face-to-face usually spend two weeks in quarantine first. The president still holds his meetings with senior officials – including his cabinet and his Security Council – by video link from a restrained room in his residence outside Moscow, written along Ms. Izranova’s disinfectant tunnel .

In the coronovirus epidemic, Mr. Putin is often compared to Russia, the United States and Brazil, two other large countries with strong leaders who have reduced the risk of the disease and seen it out of control. But while Brazil’s President Trump and President Jair Balasanaro have protested against restricting their own movements, Mr. Putin has retreated into a complex cocoon of social disturbances – even as he mandated life in Russia Is allowed to be normal.

The gap between the behavior of Mr. Putin and his people has now widened, as the second wave of the epidemic threatens to wash over Russia. In Moscow, where people packed indoor bars and restaurants all summer with only a few masks, the number of daily cases tripled more than 2,300 in the past two weeks.

As Russia lifted the lockdown last spring, Mr. Putin presided over formal events designed to shed a sense of normalcy. Behind the curtain, they were anything but ordinary.

Dozens of World War II veterans joined Mr. Putin at the risers in Red Square in June when he chaired a military parade to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany. But before Mr. Putin went within breathing distance, the veterans were to spend two weeks in quarantine at a separate health site.

“We went for a walk, were bored, sat around and breathed air,” said Lev Litvinov, a 100-year-old elder.

The logistic proved to be so tax that Mr. Litvinov did not actually make it to the parade. He said that after spending two weeks in quarantine, he became ill on a winding drive 50 miles away through the country towards Red Square. He was taken to a health center instead, where he spent another week.

“Most importantly, it’s about his health, the health of the veterans,” Mr. Putin’s spokesman Dimitri S. Peskov decided to convince attendees in June.

Mr. Putin’s diligence in defending himself is on strike because in recent months, while communicating with the Russian public, his government largely declared the virus.

Messrs Serbin S. of Moscow. “We want to congratulate you on our latest joint victory,” Soblin wrote, announcing the end of the city’s lockout in June. Indoor dining at the bar and restaurant resumed after just two weeks.

Critics said Russia raced to end its coronovirus restrictions to lift people’s spirits ahead of the July 1 referendum on constitutional amendments, which were open until 2036 when Mr. Putin became president. When Mr. Putin announced in August that Russia had registered the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, it appeared that the country was making a crushing final strike against the epidemic.

“Common efforts and targeted and, as it turned out, very effective solutions have helped us pass the peak of the epidemic and create conditions for further work,” Mr. Putin said later in an interview with state television .

Families filled the Black Sea resorts and adults returned to their offices. Across the country, children went to school on time on 1 September.

But Mr. Putin remained in self-isolation. He continued most of his meetings with government officials by video conference from a room in his suburban Moscow estate, Novo-Ogaryovo.

The residence, like the Kremlin, is designed by Mizoti, the industrial-cleaning equipment company of Ms. Israelova, with a disinfectant tunnel built in the Russian city of Penza. Walking through the tunnel, she says, feels and smells as if passing through a cloud of pool-water mist.

Mr. Putin’s video conferencing room – beige chair, walls, telephone; Dell computer screens, blank except for a picture of the Kremlin as a desktop background – became so familiar that state television recently aired a segment on it.

“These are microphones on the president’s desk,” the reporter showed on Sunday prime time show “Moscow”. Kremlin. Putin “” When the indicator lights are red, the sound is not transmitted. “

In August, a state television reporter found an exception to interview and interview Mr. Putin. Otherwise, the Kremlin has cut the capacity of journalists to see Mr. Putin, even for those who had done so regularly since March.

“This work is absolutely remote,” said journalist Andrei Kolsnikov, who has been covering the Kremlin for the Kremlin, a daily newspaper since 2002. Days of coronovirus. “

Kremlin spokesman Mr. Peskov did not respond to requests for comment about the president’s coronavirus precautions. But Mr. Kollennikov said he understood that on Putin’s agenda, governors, business leaders and senior officials are given a choice: meet by video link or spend up to two weeks in quarantine for a one-man encounter.

“Since he misses real-life interactions with people, you will probably get a chance to drink tea with him,” Mr. Kolesnikov said. “I think they, of course, choose quarantine in that case.”

Mr. Putin’s extreme caution not only reflects his age – he is 67 years old, putting him at a relatively high risk of serious illness from coronovirus – but also points out that critics have noted his former career as a KGB detective Regarded as paranoia. He made headlines last year when he snapped from his mug of a group of 20 summits in Japan, even as other assembled world leaders drank wine glasses.

According to the Kremlin’s website, only one person has met face-to-face with Mr. Putin more than once since April: Igor Sechin, a former KGB official and close associate of Mr. Putin since 1990. He now runs the Russian state oil giant Rosneft, and saw the president in August and May.

Proct, a Russian investigative news outlet, reported on Wednesday that authorities have set up two large health resorts in the Black Sea city of Sochi for people before meeting Mr. Putin. In September, 30 nuclear industry workers, who were quarantined in Sochi, were then flown to Moscow to meet with the president in the Kremlin, according to Prok.

“Some people quarantine for two weeks, some people quarantine for a few days and some people meet without quarantine,” Mr. Peskov told reporters.

Mr Putin’s EU counterparts have begun to break up the continent again, including a personal summit in Brussels. Mr. Putin, by contrast, has not been abroad since January.

Mr. Peskov indicated this week that President Kovid-19 would resume foreign travel only after receiving the vaccine. But he advised that Mr. Putin was not ready to develop it despite all the state-media bombardment about Russia’s world-leading achievement.

“It is but natural that when it comes to the head of state, special precautionary measures are effective,” Mr. Peskov told reporters.

Oleg Matsnev and Sofia Kishkovsky contributed to the research.

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