Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced this afternoon during a video conference with President Vladimir Putin that doctors have diagnosed him with a coronavirus infection.

“I have just learned that the test I took for coronavirus gave a positive result,” Mishustin told Putin directly in images broadcast on the Rossiya-24 channel. Therefore, the head of government continued, “according to the demands of the -control body – Rospotrebnadzor, I must isolate myself in quarantine and follow the instructions of the doctors”. “I must do this to protect my colleagues,” he added, and told Putin that “the government will continue to work as usual, I plan to be in active contact with my collaborators by telephone and via video conference on all basic issues.

Mishustin proposed that the first deputy prime minister, Andrei Belousov, should take over as interim head of the cabinet for the duration of his illness. The Russian leader responded by wishing him a speedy recovery. In his words, “this can happen to anyone”. “You are a very active person and I want to thank you for the work you have done so far,” Putin continued. The head of state also stressed that “you, members of the government and colleagues in the presidential administration are certainly in a risk zone, because no matter how much you try to limit contacts, when it comes to making decisions there is no way to do without direct communication with the people”. Putin also told the Prime Minister that “I hope that he will keep up his good form at work and take an active part in the development of measures to support the public, the economy in general and the sectors affected by the epidemic (…) without his opinion and without his participation these decisions will not be taken”.

Mishustin, a former director of the Federal Tax Service, was put in charge of the government on January 16, replacing Dmitry Medvedev, who had been in office since 2012. Although formally it was Medvedev who resigned, the truth is that he was forced to do so by the head of the Kremlin in a move that political scientists have so far failed to decipher. He defended the faithful Medvedev the same day he announced his controversial constitutional reform.

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