The "Putin tunnel" might someday join "Potemkin village" in the lexicon. Russian President Vladimir Putin has had movable disinfectant tunnels installed at the Kremlin and his residence outside Moscow and has retreated into an "intricate cocoon of social distancing" while allowing life for ordinary Russians to largely return to normal, the New York Times reports. Anybody who comes close to Putin—including the extremely elderly World War II veterans who joined him at a Red Square military parade in June—is required to spend up to two weeks in quarantine at an isolated resort first. The measures were in place when Putin presided over ceremonies "designed to exude a sense of normalcy" as lockdowns were lifted in the summer, the Times notes.
Putin, wearing a hazmat suit, visited Moscow's main coronavirus hospital in March and shook hands with its chief doctor, Denis Protsenko, but he ended his public appearances after Protsenko tested positive, the Guardian reports. Kommersant journalist Andrei Kolesnikov says Putin's work has been almost entirely remote during the pandemic and journalists have had access cut off. Critics call Putin, a former KGB spy, paranoid, although COVID cases are rising again in Moscow and the 67-year-old leader's age puts him at risk. In August, Putin said Russia had registered a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine, though Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said this week that Putin isn't ready to be inoculated yet because of "special precautionary measures." (Read more Vladimir Putin stories.)