German Chancellor Olaf Scholz became the second European leader in a week to refuse a Russian-administered coronavirus test on his visit to the Kremlin on Tuesday.
The new German leader met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in hopes of defusing tensions in the Ukraine standoff a day after he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv.
German media reported that a German Embassy doctor in Moscow had tested Scholz instead of Russian medical personnel, as required.
The Kremlin said Schulz’s refusal to submit a PCR test would not affect his meeting with Putin later Tuesday nor the Russian leader’s image on the world stage.
“These are absolutely temporary measures, they are explained by the epidemiological situation,” Interfax quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.
Peskov also confirmed that Scholz and Putin will be seated “at a greater distance than usual.”
“This will in no way affect the nature of the meeting, nor its content, nor its duration,” he added.
During his talks with Putin last week, French President Emmanuel Macron was subjected to restrictions — including a meme-ready seating arrangement — for declining to take a Russian Covid-19 test. Reuters later reported that Macron did not want to hand over his DNA to the Russian state.
Video released by the Kremlin showed Putin and Scholz taking their seats at opposite ends of the same enormous white table from the Putin-Macron talks.
Putin, who has said he received Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, has adhered to strict health protocols since the start of the pandemic, including subjecting visitors to quarantine requirements as well as holding key government meetings via videoconference.
On Monday, Putin was seen seated at another long table during televised meetings with his top diplomat and defense chief.