When French President Emmanuel Macron travelled in Moscow this week to meet with President Vladimir Putin, he rebuffed a Kremlin offer to take a Russian COVID-19 test in order to prevent Russia from obtaining Macron’s DNA, according to two people in Macron’s entourage.
As a result, the visiting French president was kept apart from Russia’s president during long meetings on the Ukraine situation in Moscow.
Images of Macron and Putin seated at opposite ends of a 4-metre-long (13-foot) table during their discussions on Monday shocked observers, with some diplomats and others believing Putin may be trying to send a diplomatic message.
However, two individuals familiar with the French president’s health regimen told Reuters that Macron was offered a choice: accept a PCR test performed by Russian officials and be permitted to approach Putin, or decline and face more rigorous social distance.
“We were fully aware that this meant no handshake and a lengthy table. But we could not believe that they obtained the president’s DNA,” one of the individuals told Reuters, referring to security concerns if the French president was examined by Russian scientists.
A Reuters message requesting comment was not immediately returned by a Kremlin spokesperson.
Macron’s refusal to undergo a Russian PCR test was verified by a second person in his entourage. According to the source, Macron instead had a French PCR test prior to departure and an antigen test performed by his own doctor while in Russia.
“The Russians told us Putin needed to be maintained in a tight health bubble,” according to the second source.
On Thursday, three days after Macron and Putin’s socially distant encounter, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The two guys exchanged handshakes and sat next to one other, separated only by a tiny coffee table.