Russia's Vladimir Putin quarantining after several COVID-19 cases in his entourage

Vladimir Putin, seen here at the Kremlin on Monday, is quarantining after several Covid-19 cases in his entourage. Valery Melnikov/TASS/POOL/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is quarantining after several people in his inner circle tested positive for COVID-19, the Kremlin said Tuesday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin has tested negative for coronavirus and is "absolutely healthy."

Peskov told journalists in a conference call that as "several people" in Putin's entourage got sick with COVID-19 the President "must take a responsible position and not endanger the health of his colleagues." The spokesman did not specify who has tested positive.

Putin -- who was vaccinated against COVID-19 in March -- had a busy day on Monday. He held face-to face talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, met a number of Russian Paralympians and inspected troops taking part in military exercises in Nizhny Novgorod.

Asked why Putin met with Assad if there were concerns about his exposure to people who tested positive, Peskov said the event took place before the decision to quarantine was made.

When pressed on the matter by journalists who brought up the fact Putin told Russian athletes on Monday there were people sick with coronavirus around him, Peskov reiterated there was "nothing illogical" about Putin's schedule.

"First, I can say that Putin did not meet with Assad at the end of the day, it was at the beginning of the working day. And everything else, as the doctors completed their studies and the necessary procedures ... a decision was made. There is nothing illogical here. At that time [when the meetings happened], doctors were still doing their tests," Peskov said.

"Nobody's health was endangered," he added.

The Russian President acknowledged the existence of "identified cases of coronavirus in his environment," according to a Kremlin statement.

Putin also referred to the situation on a call on Tuesday with his Republic of Tajikistan counterpart, Emomali Rahmon, adding that he would have to quarantine for "a certain period of time" as a consequence.

The Kremlin statement said that Putin's scheduled appointments for the ongoing week will now be attended via videoconference.

"Isolation does not directly affect the work of the President. But there will be no face-to-face events for some time," Peskov added.

Russia is among the countries worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic, reporting the eighth highest number of cases globally. As of Tuesday, it had officially recorded more than 7 million cases and 190,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

It is currently battling a devastating third wave of infections, with weekly deaths at some of the highest levels so far.

Russia has developed several COVID-19 vaccines, but it is battling persistently low vaccination rates -- a problem caused by high levels of hesitancy among its population. Just over a quarter of Russians have received the shot, compared to more than a half in the United States and two thirds in the United Kingdom, according Our World in Data.

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