MOSCOW: Journalists travelling with Russian President Vladimir Putin on an official trip this week must undergo mandatory coronavirus testing to prove they do not have the disease, the Kremlin said on Tuesday (Mar 17).
Announcing its latest move to try to protect Putin's health, a presidential administration official confirmed the new condition ahead of an official trip to Crimea on Wednesday.
Russia has reported 114 coronavirus cases so far, fewer than many European countries.
But the Kremlin has told reporters who cover Putin to stay away from official events if they feel unwell as a precautionary measure and upbraided news organisations for accrediting journalists who have recently travelled abroad.
Journalists travelling with Putin this week were told to get tested at a medical facility run by the Russian presidential administration, according to one reporter who was tested.
Coronavirus tests have so far largely only been available for Russians who have returned from countries most affected by the virus or who were in contact with travellers.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said that Putin's own medical care arrangements are of an exceptionally high level and that he is working at full capacity as usual.
He has declined to say whether Putin has taken a coronavirus test.
"Detailed information about the president's health is not meant for wide publication," Peskov said last week.
Putin, 67, faced a potential threat of being exposed to the virus when lawmaker Sergei Katasonov violated his quarantine last week to hear his speech at a plenary session.
Peskov said at the time he was confident that there was no risk to Putin's health.
Earlier on Tuesday, Katasonov's fellow party members drafted a proposal to withdraw his mandate for putting public health at risk.