Macron refused Russian COVID test in Putin trip over DNA theft fears

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French President Emmanuel Macron refused a Kremlin request that he take a Russian COVID-19 test when he arrived to see President Vladimir Putin this week, to prevent Russia getting hold of Macron’s DNA, two sources in Macron’s entourage told Reuters.

As a result, the visiting French head of state was kept at a distance from the Russian leader during lengthy talks on the Ukraine crisis in Moscow.

The Kremlin confirmed on Friday that French President Emmanuel Macron was kept at a distance from President Vladimir Putin at talks this week because the French leader declined to take a Russian COVID-19 test before their meeting.

The Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was understanding of the French position and had been guided by the need to protect Putin at the meeting, where the leaders sat at opposite ends of a 4-metre-long table.

He said this was not about politics and had not affected the talks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron (R) meet in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 07 February 2022. EPA-EFE/KREMLIN POOL / SPUTNIK / POOL

Observers were struck by images of Macron and Putin sitting at opposite ends of 4-metre-long (13-foot) table on Monday during their talks, with some diplomats and others suggesting Putin might be wanting to send a diplomatic message.

But two sources, who have knowledge of the French president’s health protocol, told Reuters Macron had been given a choice: either accept a PCR test done by the Russian authorities and be allowed to get close to Putin, or refuse and have to abide by more stringent social distancing.

“We knew very well that meant no handshake and that long table. But we could not accept that they get their hands on the president’s DNA,” one of the sources told Reuters, referring to security concerns if the French leader was tested by Russian doctors.

A Kremlin spokesman did not immediately respond to a message from Reuters seeking comment.

The second source in Macron’s entourage confirmed Macron declined to take a Russian PCR test. The source said Macron instead took a French PCR test before departure and an antigen test done by his own doctor once in Russia.

“The Russians told us Putin needed to be kept in a strict health bubble,” the second source said.

On Thursday, three days after Macron and Putin had their socially-distanced meeting, the Russian leader received Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The two men shook hands, and sat close to each other, divided only by a small coffee table.

Photo – French President Emmanuel Macron listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a joint press conference after their talks in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 07 February2022. EPA-EFE/THIBAULT CAMUS / POOL

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