Putin installed a replica of his Moscow office at his beachside retreat so he could pretend to be in the thick of things while shielding from COVID-19, report says
- Russian President Vladimir Putin had a replica of his Moscow office secretly installed at his beachfront retreat, according to the Proekt investigative news outlet.
- The Kremlin says Putin is working from the Novo-Ogaryovo palace near Moscow, but Proekt said that he secretly fled to the Black Sea palace of Bocharov Ruchey this summer.
- Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov denied the report, calling it an "informational attack," while opposition leader Alexei Navalny said it was "absolutely Putin's style to lie."
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Russian President Vladimir Putin installed a perfect replica of his Moscow office at his beachside retreat so he could pretend to be in the thick of things, the Russian investigative news outlet Proekt reported.
Putin, who before the pandemic was often front and center of national affairs, began working remotely from the Novo-Ogaryovo palace near Moscow in February to shield from the coronavirus.
But while the president's official schedule has almost always placed him at Novo-Ogaryovo, Proekt, citing four sources, reported that officials had installed an identical office at Bocharov Ruchey, Putin's palace on the Black Sea near Sochi where he has been holed up since the end of summer.
Presidential flight records have often countered the president's official location given by the Kremlin, Proekt said.
For example, Putin addressed a group of school children by video link on November 2, with the Kremlin's official description placing him in Moscow.
"This is strange because the staff providing the president's work were in Sochi that day," Proekt said. "From there, the next day, the presidential plane took off for St. Petersburg."
Proekt said the mirror office has gone unnoticed so far because Russian pool journalists who usually travel with Putin have been prevented from traveling due to health concerns.
Dmitri Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, denied the existence of the identical Sochi office on December 9.
"There are no identical offices. The president has many offices in different cities, he uses them, and you can see them all," he told the Interfax state news agency.
"What was written, I repeat once again, are components of an information campaign, an information attack."
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny tweeted a link to the Proekt report, adding: "It's absolutely Putin's style to lie, even in small things."
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Putin has avoided infection by working remotely and conducting his business by video link. Security around the president has also been heightened.
In mid-June 2020, a disinfectant tunnel was installed at the entrance to Novo-Ogaryovo, which anyone entering the palace made to pass through.
In the weeks before, several members of Putin's inner circle, including Peskov and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, were diagnosed with COVID-19.
And when Putin has made a rare public appearance, it has come with precautions.
On June 22, Putin attended the Victory Day parade in Moscow, but the World War II veterans who sat near him at the event — many of whom were aged 90 and over — were made to quarantine for two weeks before the event.
Russia announced it had approved its locally-made vaccine, called Sputnik V, in August. On December 2, Putin ordered a national vaccination scheme to start the following week, The Moscow Times reported.
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