Coronavirus creeps closer to Putin as Kremlin staffer diagnosed with Covid-19
27 Mar, 2020 13:51
© Sputnik / Ilya Pitalyev
By Jonny Tickle
With news of Boris Johnson's coronavirus infection and Justin Trudeau's self isolation, it's clear that jobs which involve lots of meetings and shaking hands aren't the safest occupations at present.
Now, in Russia, fears are growing that the disease might have already infiltrated President Putin's closest circle. The anxiety has been fueled by confirmation on Friday that at least one employee of the presidential administration has contracted Covid-19.
Putin's spokesman told reporters he was aware of the situation. However, Dmitry Peskov said the individual concerned did not have direct contact with Putin. He also dismissed speculation about another infection.
“I know about one case, that is, I can confirm one. I don't know about the second,” Peskov told reporters on Friday.
On Thursday, Russian social media circulated a rumor, originally sourced to Moscow daily RBK, that two employees of the presidential administration had tested positive for coronavirus.
As well as Peskov's denial, a spokeswoman for administrative affairs, Elena Krylova, also claimed she had no knowledge of a second case. Earlier on Thursday, the press service of the Russian cabinet told Interfax news agency that an employee was suspected of having contracted Covid-19, and had been sent to quarantine.
This isn't the only scare in the Kremlin. Peskov confirmed on Friday that he himself was at the birthday party of Alla Krutaya, the sister of Ukrainian-born award-winning composer Igor Krutoy. According to reports, the celebration was also attended by singer Lev Leshchenko, who is now confirmed to have contracted coronavirus.
“Yes, I was there,” said Peskov, “I didn't see Leshchenko. Apparently, he had likely already left.”
On March 23, 78-year-old Leshchenko and his wife Irina voluntarily went to the medical unit in Kommunarka, a hospital designated for dealing with coronavirus. Two days later, the singer was placed in intensive care. He is now said to be in a stable condition.
According to media reports, Krutaya's party was attended by a ‘who's who’ of Russian showbiz. Amongst the attendees, as well as Peskov and Leshchenko, were tenor Nikolai Baskov, TV host Lera Kudryavtseva, and comedian Alexander Revva. Following the diagnosis of Leshchenko and the hospitalization of singer Igor Nikolayev who also attended the Krutaya party, there are now fears that coronavirus is making its way through Moscow's high society.
On her Telegram channel, the Russian socialite and former presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak wrote, “everyone who was there [at the party] is now alarmed!” Sobchak's own mother, Senator Ludmila Narusova, is also in Kommunarka hospital. Narusova and her daughter have long been associated with Putin, who launched his political career under the tutelage of the late Anatoly Sobchak, Narusova's former husband and Ksenia's father.