French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly refused to take a COVID-19 test in Russia before a meeting with President Vladimir Putin because he did not want to give Moscow his DNA, two of Macron’s aides said, according to Reuters on Friday.
Sources familiar with the situation said Macron’s refusal to take the test led to the French president being kept at a distance from Putin during discussions on Ukraine.
A photograph from the meeting shows the two heads of state sitting at opposite ends of a long table.
The sources said Kremlin officials gave Macron a choice prior to his meeting with Putin: either take the PCR test conducted by Russian authorities and be allowed near Putin, or refuse the test and follow strict social distancing requirements.
“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 source told Reuters, citing security concerns as the reason for Macron’s rejection.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed Macron’s refusal to take the COVID-19 test. Peskov said Russia was fine with Macron’s decision, adding that social distancing was implemented to protect Putin’s health.
“There is no politics in this, it does not interfere with negotiations in any way,” he said.
Another source close to Macron said the French president took a PCR test before leaving, as well as an antigen test by his own doctor after he arrived in Russia.
“The Russians told us Putin needed to be kept in a strict health bubble,” the source added.
Reuters reported that Macron’s office said the Russian health requirement “did not seem to us to be either acceptable or compatible with our diary constraints,” referencing the amount of time that would have been necessary to see test results.
When asked about Macron’s reported concerns regarding DNA theft, the French president’s office said, “The president has doctors who define with him the rules that are acceptable or not in terms of his own health protocol.”
The two leaders met as Russia has amassed approximately 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders and could decide “at any time” to invade Ukraine, U.S. officials have said.