Russia's Putin protected from coronavirus by disinfection tunnels

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin is protected from the coronavirus by special disinfection tunnels that anyone visiting his residence outside Moscow or meeting him in the Kremlin must pass through, his spokesman said on Wednesday.

One such special tunnel, manufactured by a Russian company based in the town of Penza, has been installed at Putin’s official Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow and two more in the Kremlin, said Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman.

He said they were installed at the height of the pandemic in Russia which authorities say is now on the wane, particularly in Moscow where lockdown restrictions are being lifted.

Some restrictions in the Kremlin remained in place, said Peskov, though many had been removed. He said precautions regarding Putin’s health continued to be justified, however.

Demonstration footage of the tunnel, published by the state-controlled RIA news agency on Tuesday night, showed masked people passing through it being sprayed with disinfectant from the ceiling and from the side.

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RIA described the disinfectant as a fine mist that covered people’s clothes and any exposed upper body flesh.

Putin has spent much of the pandemic running the world’s largest country from his residence rather than the Kremlin, chairing video conference meetings from a room that his critics dubbed a bunker.

Peskov said in April that anyone meeting Putin in person underwent testing for the coronavirus. A month later, Peskov said he had himself been infected.

Russia has recorded over half a million infections, the third highest number of cases in the world after Brazil and the United States, something it attributes to a massive testing programme.

Russia has registered 7,478 deaths so far - fewer than numerous other countries. Critics are dubious about the accuracy of its mortality figures.

Additional reporting by Tom Balmforth and Anastasia Teterevleva; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Mark Heinrich