MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian government built special tunnels to protect President Vladimir Putin from the coronavirus at home and at work, Putin’s spokesman said Wednesday.
Reports about tunnels where anyone passing through gets sprayed with germ-killing antiseptics appeared in Russian media on Tuesday night. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that one tunnel was installed at the president’s home outside Moscow and two at the Kremlin.
“When it comes to the head of the state, additional precautionary measures are justified,” Peskov said, adding that the tunnels were put in when Russia’s coronavirus “was in full swing.”
Information about the tunnel at Putin’s residence in Novo-Ogaryovo first appeared on the official website of the Penza region, a province some 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Moscow where the equipment was manufactured.
Video footage of the tunnel provided to The Associated Press by the company that assembled it showed the device spraying individuals walking through with a liquid antiseptic.
Last week, Putin attended a public event in Moscow for the first time since early May. His appearance came several days after city authorities lifted the lockdown in the Russian capital, citing a slowdown in new cases. Putin announced in late May that Russia’s outbreak had peaked and scheduled a military parade, postponed because of the pandemic, for June 24.
“Right now, certain (virus-related restrictions) remain in place as well, even though many of them have been already lifted,” Peskov said.
Russian health officials reported 7,843 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the lowest daily number since late April. The country has a total of 553,301 confirmed cases, the third most in the world.
Kremlin critics question the official government statistics and have linked moves to lift public health measures to the Russian government’s desire to boost voter turnout in an upcoming constitutional referendum that would allow Putin to rule until 2036. The plebiscite is scheduled for July 1.