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Vladimir Putin (center) during a meeting in the Kremlin with volunteers from the Russian mutual aid initiative “My Vmeste” (“We are Together”). March 4, 2021.

Self-isolating for Putin Russia has spent billions of rubles on quarantining people who come into contact with the president

Source: Russian BBC
Vladimir Putin (center) during a meeting in the Kremlin with volunteers from the Russian mutual aid initiative “My Vmeste” (“We are Together”). March 4, 2021.
Vladimir Putin (center) during a meeting in the Kremlin with volunteers from the Russian mutual aid initiative “My Vmeste” (“We are Together”). March 4, 2021.
Alexey Druzhinin / Kremlin Press Service / TASS Scanpix / LETA

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Putin’s administrative directorate has spent billions of rubles on quarantining everyone who comes into contact with the Russian president, according to a new report from the BBC Russian Service. Pilots, healthcare workers, and even World War II veterans have all been put up in hotels in different parts of Russia to self-isolate on the government’s dime before coming into close proximity with Putin. The Kremlin’s spokesman says these expenses are all part and parcel of implementing quarantine measures.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Russia set up a full-fledged system for quarantining healthcare workers, pilots, support staff, and other people who come into contact with President Vladimir Putin, reports the BBC Russian Service.  

The Russian BBC’s journalists calculated that the Russian Presidential Administrative Directorate received more than 6.4 billion rubles, nearly $85 million, from the government reserve fund (including 1.2 billion rubles, about $16 million, allocated by a secret order) to finance measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. A significant portion of this money was spent on medical observation services for people set to be around Putin.

These quarantine services were provided in 12 hotels and sanatoriums located in Moscow, the Moscow region, Sochi, and Yalta. As emphasized by the Russian BBC, all of these hotels belong to Putin’s administrative directorate and, in fact, the money allocated for medical observation has been circulating within the department’s structures. Moreover, the contracts for providing for the “sanitary and epidemiological welfare” of protected persons were concluded without any competition.

Those quarantined most often were members of the “Rossiya” special flight squadron, which provides air travel for the president, the prime minister, and several other top Russian officials. Pilots, flight attendants, and flight managers were all placed under medical observation, as well as a reserve crew — some of whom sat in quarantine for several days, or even for several weeks, ahead of flights. Other people who come into contact with Putin periodically were also regularly quarantined, such as employees of the presidential administration, his personal photographers and camera operators, and members of the film crew for the television program “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin.”

Among other things, the presidential administrative directorate paid to quarantine the World War II veterans who sat near Putin during last year’s Victory Day Parade, as well as the journalists from the Kremlin press pool, who were allowed to attend Putin’s annual press conference last December. The World War II veterans were given accomodations at the Klyazma Health Complex outside of Moscow, while the journalists were put up in a hotel in the city center.

The allocated funds were also spent on retaining medical workers responsible for examining Putin and other top officials. Thus, Putin’s administrative directorate paid the Central Clinical Hospital more than one billion rubles (more than $13.3 million) in subsidies for the “organization of medical care” for top officials. Part of this money was spent on quarantining medical personnel in Moscow hotels, as well as in observatories and holiday homes in Sochi and Valday ahead of presidential visits.

As the BBC Russian Service notes, the presidential administrative directorate didn’t pay to quarantine government officials in the regions that Putin himself visited. For example, when the Russian president travelled to the Nizhny Novgorod region in late November, 20 government officials from the regional administration had to spend the preceding two weeks in isolation at a local boarding house. This and other sanitary measures “aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus infection during the period of events dedicated to the President of the Russian Federation’s visit” were financed by approximately one million rubles (about $13,300) allocated from the regional budget. 

Asked about the Russian BBC’s report, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the spending and the medical observation services “common practice,” noting that “all departments are incurring additional costs in connection with quarantine measures.”

“That is to say that this is an absolutely normal situation,” Peskov concluded during his daily press briefing. 

Summary by Grigory Levchenko

Translated by Eilish Hart

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