Russian President Vladimir Putin has described his self-quarantine due to "all-day" exposure to a close contact who tested positive for the coronavirus as a "test" for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.
Putin, 68, made the comments during a videoconference on September 14 with members of the government and leaders of the ruling United Russia party.
"Several people fell ill in my inner circle, and one of these employees is a person who works with me in close proximity," Putin said, adding that he had spoken to the unidentified individual just before the man became sick.
"I talked to him all day the day before," Putin added, saying they had been in "very close" contact.
Putin explained that the contact had been vaccinated, but after his antibody levels dropped the man was revaccinated and "three days after the vaccination he got sick."
The Russian president, who has previously claimed to have been fully vaccinated with Sputnik V, described his current situation as a "natural experiment."
"Let's see how Sputnik V will work in practice," he said, adding that tests showed that his antibodies against COVID-19 remained high. "Hopefully, everything will go the way it should and Sputnik V will exhibit high levels of protection against COVID."
The Kremlin earlier announced Putin's self-isolation during a readout of a call Putin had with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon.
"Vladimir Putin said that in connection with the identified cases of coronavirus in his environment, he must observe the self-isolation regime for a certain period of time," the statement said. It did not say how long the isolation period would be.
Putin has canceled a planned trip to Tajikistan, as well as his attendance at sessions in Dushanbe of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
It is not known which of Putin's close contacts tested positive for COVID-19, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the president is “absolutely healthy” and "of course" has tested negative for the illness.
Putin attended several public events on September 13, including a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Moscow and the Russian Paralympic team. He also attended military exercises conducted in coordination with Belarus.
He shook hands with Assad and attended the military exercises alongside other officials. He also shook hands with the Paralympians and appeared to signal that he was aware that he may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
“Even in my circle, problems occur with this COVID,” he was quoted as saying by the state RIA Novosti news agency. “We need to look into what's really happening there. I think I may have to quarantine soon myself. A lot of people around [me] are sick."
Peskov later said Putin had been speaking “figuratively.”