Putin Cancels Annual Q&A Marathon Due to Coronavirus

President Vladimir Putin has canceled his annual call-in session with the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, his spokesman announced Wednesday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin “has already been conducting the Direct Line the past few months,” referring to his several video addresses announcing support measures for Russians during the Covid-19 outbreak.

“It would be unnecessary to carry out the Direct Line in its traditional format this year,” Peskov told the state-run TASS news agency.

Peskov added that “elements” from the call-in session would be added to Putin’s annual marathon press conference, which he said is expected to take place as scheduled this December.

“These elements would allow the president to get feedback from citizens in various regions,” the press secretary said.

This year’s canceled session would have been Putin’s 18th call-in show. He has canceled the event twice before in 2004 and 2012. The four-hour sessions are usually filmed in crowded television studios, a setting that would pose a health risk in the Covid-19 era.

Putin has held most of his meetings via videoconference since the pandemic arrived in Russia. As restrictions have been gradually lifted this summer, Putin has ventured out of his residence near Moscow for a working visit to another region at least once.

The Russian president’s approval rating fell to historic lows at the height of the coronavirus outbreak but recovered to pre-pandemic levels in August.

Russia has officially confirmed more than 1 million coronavirus infections and almost 18,000 deaths since the first case was registered in March.

Putin Announces ‘World’s First’ Coronavirus Vaccine

Russia has registered the world’s first coronavirus vaccine early Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin announced, adding that one of his daughters has already been inoculated amid ongoing concerns about the rapidly developed vaccine’s safety.

The state-run Gamaleya research institute last week launched Phase III trials of the Covid-19 vaccine involving thousands of volunteers. The Health Ministry has said it plans to begin mass production of the vaccine as soon as next month and launch a mass vaccination drive in October.

“This morning, for the first time in the world, a vaccine against the new coronavirus was registered,” Putin said in a televised cabinet session broadcast.

“I know that it’s effective and forms sustainable immunity,” he said.

Putin said one of his daughters, whose identity he has neither confirmed nor denied to date, has already taken the vaccine. He said the only side effect she experienced was a high temperature of 38 degrees Celsius for one day.

Its registration certificate on the Health Ministry website notes that the vaccine, an injection solution called “Sputnik-V,” will enter civilian circulation on Jan. 1, 2021.

Experts, including an industry body representing multinationals that conduct clinical trials in Russia, have called the vaccine’s swift registration without completing Phase III trials a “Pandora’s box.”

The World Health Organization last week urged Russia to follow established guidelines and go “through all the stages” necessary to develop a safe vaccine.

Russia has the world’s fourth-highest Covid-19 caseload with almost 900,000 infections.

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