To Protect Putin From Covid-19, Russia Isolates War Veterans

World War II veterans selected to sit with President Vladimir Putin at next week’s Red Square military parade are being kept in isolation at a health resort as part of measures to protect him from possible exposure to the coronavirus.

Nearly 80 veterans were brought to the resort outside Moscow for 14 days before the June 24 parade, when they’ll be transferred to join Putin on the tribune, said two officials with knowledge of preparations, who asked not to be identified as the information isn’t public.

The decision to quarantine the elderly pensioners reflects the severity of the measures officials are taking to shield Putin from the virus that has already infected several top figures including Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. It also helps protect the veterans who are in the age groups regarded as particularly vulnerable to the disease.

“It is very important that all precautions are taken,” Peskov told reporters on a conference call Thursday, confirming that the veterans have been brought to the resort. “This is out of concern for their health,” he said.

The president has remained largely in isolation at his residence outside Moscow as the epidemic spread through Russia, which has the world’s third-highest number of infections at more than 550,000 to date. Officials who visit Putin there or at the Kremlin must pass through special entry gates that spray visitors with disinfectant from the sides and roof, Peskov said Wednesday.

A top aide to opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who is facing a new criminal case against him for allegedly libeling a former WWII soldier, criticized the measure. The invited veterans were being used “only as a favorable propaganda background” for Putin, Leonid Volkov said in a tweet.

Putin postponed the traditional May 9 parade in April because of the coronavirus. After declaring last month that Russia had passed the peak of the epidemic, he ordered preparations to resume for the event marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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