March 12, 2020 / 4:49 PM / 16 days ago

Russia to disinfect parliament chamber after lawmaker broke quarantine to hear Putin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is disinfecting its parliament chamber after a lawmaker ignored coronavirus quarantine to attend assembly sessions, including one where President Vladimir Putin gave a speech.

FILE PHOTO: Members of Russia's lower house of parliament, also known as the State Duma, attend a session to consider constitutional changes proposed by President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

Sergei Katasonov, a member of the nationalist LDPR party, told Reuters he had ignored a requirement by Moscow authorities to self-isolate for 14 days after returning from France because he did not fully understand the risks.

“Considering that we were checked at the airport I didn’t see a need for self-isolation,” Katasonov said.

Katasonov confirmed he had attended a parliamentary session on Tuesday, where Putin made an unexpected appearance to open the door to constitutional changes that would allow him to remain in power until 2036.

Parliamentary speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the chamber where plenary sessions were held would be disinfected and several lawmakers who had been in contact with Katasonov might be quarantined as well as a result.

Fellow lawmakers demanded more action.

“Cleaning and disinfection would take more than just one hour of work,” Gennadiy Onishenko, a pro-Kremlin parliament member and a former Russian top public health official, said and proposed ending the parliamentary session early.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the LDPR, proposed recalling Katasonov’s mandate and accused him of putting colleagues’ health at risk.

Speaker Volodin was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying parliament had no right to fire him, but proposed disabling his access pass for as long as the quarantine lasts.

Katasonov said he now planned to observe the quarantine rules.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond when asked if it would be taking any precautionary measures such as testing Putin for coronavirus given his appearance in parliament on Tuesday.

Russia has recorded 28 cases of coronavirus. It says some of those infected have since recovered and that nobody has died.

France, along with China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, Germany, and Spain is on a list of countries designated by Russian authorities as having unfavourable epidemiological conditions because of outbreaks of the coronavirus.

Russian and foreign citizens returning from those countries to Moscow are obliged to self-isolate for 14 days even if they have no coronavirus symptoms.

Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Alison Williams

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