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Putin is still worried about COVID-19 and makes his staff quarantine for weeks, says an elite Russian security officer who defected

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping via a video link at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 30, 2022. - Russian leader told his Chinese counterpart on December 30 he was keen to ramp up military cooperation and hailed the two countries' efforts to counter Western influence.Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping via a video link at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 30, 2022.

MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

  • Vladimir Putin has still been isolating himself and making staff quarantine, an ex-FSO officer says.
  • “We have a self-isolating President,” said the officer, who defected in October. 
  • In a Dossier Center interview, he recounted anecdotes from 13 years working in Putin’s security detail.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is still on high alert for COVID-19 and has been forcing staff to quarantine, according to a former officer who worked with his security detail for over a decade.

The Russian leader has been keeping himself on lockdown mode until at least late 2022, Gleb Karakulov, a former captain in the Presidential Communications Directorate of the Federal Guard Service, told the Dossier Center for Investigative Journalism.

“We still have a self-isolating President,” Karakulov said, per the Dossier Center. “We have to observe a strict quarantine for two weeks before any event, even those lasting 15 to 20 minutes.”

Karakulov was in charge of encrypting Putin’s communications, and traveled with him on more than 180 overseas business trips over 13 years, he told the Dossier Center. He escaped in October while accompanying Putin on a trip to Kazakhstan, and moved to Turkey with his family — a rare case of a high-ranking intelligence officer defecting from the Russian government.

The former FSO officer said Putin only allowed staff members to work in the same room as him after a two-week quarantine period, per the Dossier Center.

“There is a pool of employees who have been cleared, who underwent this two-week quarantine,” Karakulov said.

He added that when he left, Putin’s staff were already becoming confused by the president’s insistence on keeping to old pandemic restrictions.

“Everyone is a little perplexed as to why this is still going on. Because everyone has been forced to get vaccinated,” Karakulov said.

Karakulov said that he and his colleagues had to take COVID tests multiple times a day, go through health screenings, and monitor their health closely.

“I have no idea why; he’s probably just worried about his health,” Karakulov also said.

While he guessed that Putin may suffer from health problems, Karakulov said he didn’t know that for sure. 

“He is in better health than many other people his age,” Karakulov told the Dossier Center.

The Russian president, who is 70, only canceled two trips for health reasons during Karakulov’s 13-year stint working with the presidential detail, the former FSO officer said.

But in 2020 — as the COVID-19 pandemic spread — Putin shut himself away in a bunker and made at most three trips that year, Karakulov said. The officer’s account supports The Guardian’s 2021 reporting on Putin. According to The Guardian, Russian leader was at the time living alone in a residence in the resort city of Sochi, and officials had to quarantine for two weeks before seeing him.

Karakulov’s description of Putin’s caution about COVID-19 also corroborates a report by The New York Times in 2022. Putin is known to often use an absurdly long meeting table, and The Times reported that this is an anti-COVID measure used when Putin meets with international officials.

It’s unclear whether Putin is still abiding by the same slate of pandemic restrictions. When he met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Russia, the pair shook hands and were seen standing close to each other. He was also recently photographed meeting and shaking hands with Russian officials.

—Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) April 2, 2023

 

The Federal Service Guard’s press department did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment sent outside regular business hours.

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