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Russia's Vladimir Putin self-isolates after close aides infected with COVID-19

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By Euronews  with AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting in Moscow.   -   Copyright  Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File

Russian President Vladimir Putin has entered self-isolation after several cases of COVID-19 in his inner circle.

Putin -- who is fully vaccinated with Russia's Sputnik V -- has himself tested negative for the coronavirus, the Kremlin added on Tuesday.

The Russian president held several public engagements indoors on Monday and had seemingly hinted that he may have to quarantine soon.

During a daily conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Putin is "absolutely healthy" but had come in contact with someone who contracted the virus.

Asked if Putin tested negative for the virus, Peskov said "definitely, yes".

No further details were given on when Putin began self-isolating, or precisely how many of the president's contacts had tested positive for COVID-19.

Russian authorities have been regularly criticised for underplaying the pandemic and for rarely imposing measures to control the spread of the virus.

Russia's death toll is currently at its highest level of the pandemic, with just under 800 fatalities recorded each day. However, official daily coronavirus infections have fallen in the past month from over 20,000 to about 17,000.

So far, only 32% of the Russian population had received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine, and only 27% had been fully vaccinated.

Putin has hardly ever worn a mask in public, though he appeared to work largely remotely before he was vaccinated.

On Monday, the Russian leader shook hands with Russian Paralympians, attended military exercises alongside Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, and also met with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Peskov said that Putin had proceeded with the events because "no one's health was endangered".

The Kremlin spokesperson stated that the decision to self-isolate was only made after "doctors completed their testing and their procedures."

Peskov has also confirmed media reports that people who meet Putin in person have to undergo "rigorous testing" or quarantine ahead of time.