Vladimir Putin has attended a ceremony marking a Russian national holiday — the first big public event he has attended since announcing a nationwide lockdown more than two months ago.
Mr Putin observed the hoisting of the national flag at a memorial park in western Moscow and then took part in an award ceremony as part of Day of Russia celebrations.
He was not wearing a mask, and neither did most of those he awarded with Hero of Russia medals.
Mr Putin pointed at the nation’s “thousand-year history full of pages of great glory and pride, the unrivalled bravery of our ancestors and their love for their country”.
He particularly hailed medical workers amid the pandemic, praising their courage and self-sacrifice.
The 67-year-old president was last seen in public in late March, when he attended a meeting with business people days before announcing a partial economic shutdown intended to stem the outbreak.
He authorised regional governors to decide on restrictive measures, and most of them imposed tight lockdowns at the end of March.
Since then, Mr Putin has held near-daily video calls but just a few offline meetings with senior officials.
Last month, Mr Putin ordered an end to the nationwide economic shutdown and set dates for the two main events on his agenda that were postponed due to the coronavirus.
Citing a slowdown in contagion, he ordered the Victory Day parade postponed from May 9 to be held on June 24, and set a vote on constitutional amendments that could extend his rule until 2036 on July 1.
Most regions have lifted their lockdowns, and Moscow, which accounted for
nearly half of infections, also ended restrictions earlier this week.
Some experts have argued the moves are premature as the country has continued to register high daily numbers of new infections at around 9,000, and opposition activists have accused the Kremlin of jeopardising public health by rushing the constitutional vote.
Russia has the world’s third-highest caseload of more than 511,000 infections, including 6,715 deaths.