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Russian President Vladimir Putin has been a visible presence during Russia's COVID-19 pandemic, but only on TV, shown working from his office at his official residence outside Moscow. Few people have seen Putin in person since March, and those who are allowed into his office have to first quarantine for two weeks then walk through a tunnel that sprays a fine mist of antiseptics, Russian journalists say. But the investigative news organization Proekt reported last week that Putin's isolated workaholism isn't all that it appears.
Putin, a former spy, has actually been working at an identical office set up at his residence in Sochi, a resort town and popular vacation destination on the Black Sea, Proekt reports, citing anonymous sources plus presidential plane flight logs and other circumstantial evidence. Putin's office denied the report, The New York Times notes. "The president has many offices and no identical offices," Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists last week, claiming that the Proekt report and other exposés about Putin's personal life are an "information campaign, an information attack."
Opposition figure Alexei Navalny, recovering in Germany from a nerve agent poisoning believed to have been ordered by Putin, said the Proekt report about the president working at a secret duplicate office at the seashore "is absolutely Putin's style — to lie even in the little things." Ekaterina Schulmann, a political commentator for the Echo of Moscow radio station, said the recent spate of leaks about the personal life of Putin's family and inner circle are probably tied to competing factions within the government trying to embarrass rivals as their children vie for plum jobs in government and state-run corporations.
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