A new strain of the novel coronavirus appears to be emerging in Siberia, a Russian health authority said on Tuesday in comments carried by the Interfax news agency.
"We are seeing certain changes in the protein," said Anna Popova, head of the federal health and consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor.
"These substitutions identified in Siberia allow us to assume that this region is forming its own variant with certain mutations," Popova said.
Russia has recorded the world's fifth-largest caseload of the novel coronavirus, with more than 1.9 million cases, amid a surge of new infections in recent months.
Buryatia in lockdown
The Siberian region of Buryatia, near the lake Baikal, began a two-week lockdown on Monday in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, with regional leader Alexei Tsydenov warning that hospitals were full.
Russia is expected to begin providing a state-developed coronavirus vaccine to the general public within the next two months.
There have been concerns in the international scientific community about whether the vaccine has been sufficiently tested.