Geneva Summit: Putin Breaks His Strict Isolation In Pandemic To Meet With Biden

Two weeks of quarantine in Russian hotels and sanatoriums. For more than a year and in order to protect the 68-year-old Russian president from the coronavirus, that has been the protocol for anyone who wanted to approach Vladimir Putin at a distance where their breaths could cross.

Since March 2020, to meet with the leader of the Kremlin, or simply to be close to him, powerful businessmen, regional governors, volunteers of an economic conference, pilots, members of the medical staff and even some veterans of the second war have been locked up. world.

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The meeting between Putin and President Joe Biden in Geneva is an exception. Before traveling to Switzerland, the president of the United States participated in the G7 summit in Cornwall and flew to Brussels to meet with the leaders of the European Union and NATO.

Putin has not publicly traveled abroad since the coronavirus outbreak broke out in early 2020. He has received foreign leaders in Moscow or Sochi, and most of his meetings with governors and ministers have been by videoconference.

His critics have attacked him for taking refuge in a “bunker” during the coronavirus pandemic. It has been published that it is protected by sanitary tunnels, of doubtful efficiency, in which visitors are sprayed with a cloud of disinfectant.

According to the journalistic investigation website Proek, the Kremlin built in the resort city of Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea, a windowless office identical to the one in Moscow. Putin allegedly held videoconference meetings there, making everyone think he was in Moscow.

All of this was expected to end when Putin was given the Sputnik vaccine in March. The vaccination was not recorded by the cameras. The Kremlin told the media: “You will have to take our word for it.”

But the two-week quarantine was maintained for many visitors. Also for the American television team that he was with Putin to interview him before the summit. “I appreciate the extra time, Mr. President,” said Keir Simmons, a correspondent for NBC. “The team has been in quarantine for almost two weeks, so this interview is very important to us.”

Journalists on Russian state television have had to abide by similar quarantine measures.

With the United States and Russia trying to regulate their tense and conflictive relationship, it is most likely that in the debates on Wednesday the international response to the coronavirus will take a back seat to urgent issues of strategic stability. But these issues coincide with a time of disruption in the normal flow of business or tourism travelers between Russia and the United States due to restrictions on the entry of visitors imposed by Moscow to avoid outbreaks and the forced reduction of personnel in the American embassies. that issue the necessary visas to enter the country.

To make it more difficult, vaccines administered in Russia and the United States remain unrecognized by the other country’s medical authorities, suggesting a political battle to get approval.

According to the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, the slow progress with the vaccination campaign in Russia has caused an “explosive growth of cases”, for which his city council has declared a week of commercial holidays.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, told reporters before traveling to the summit in Geneva that he had not been vaccinated because he had coronavirus last year and still had an elevated level of antibodies.

According to Yuri Ushakov, an adviser to Putin, “all security precautions have been taken extremely seriously.” “From the point of view of the health of the presidents, both Americans and we have taken a very serious approach to this,” he said. “There haven’t been many face-to-face meetings lately, so it’s only natural that special attention is paid to these issues.”

Translated by Francisco de Zárate.

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