Vladimir Putin has said he didn’t intend to scare German Chancellor Angela Merkel when he brought his black Labrador Konni to one of their first ever meetings.
Merkel, who is famously terrified of dogs, kept quiet over the 2007 incident but it was widely believed that Putin had been attempting to intimidate and embarrass the German leader.
Less than two years in the job at the time, Merkel was photographed looking uncomfortable throughout her meeting with Putin as the large black Labrador wandered around the meeting room at the Russian leader’s summer residence in the Russian city of Sochi.
“The dog does not bother you, does she? She's a friendly dog and I'm sure she will behave herself,” Putin reportedly said at the time. Merkel is understood to have replied in Russian: “No, she doesn’t eat journalists after all.”
Now, nine years later, Putin has appeared to play down the incident, telling Germany’s Bild in an exclusive interview: “I wanted to do something nice for her. When I found out that she doesn't like dogs of course I apologized.”
If Putin had intended to intimidate Merkel with the dog, the power play appears to have backfired as the German Chancellor has become one of the Russian leader’s most vocal critics – in particular over his annexation of Crimea.
Putin describes his current relationship with Merkel as “businesslike”, adding: “I trust her. She's a very open person. She is also subject to certain pressures and limitations. But she is making an honest effort to resolve the crises, also in south-west Ukraine.”
Putin, who was working as a KGB officer in the East German city of Dresden when the Berlin Wall fell, also lavished praise on the country itself – albeit while making a dig at the German media.
“The mutual sympathy of our peoples is and remains the basis of our relationship," he says. "Even with anti-Russian propaganda, the mass media in Germany haven't managed to damage this sympathy,” he adds.
Elsewhere in the interview Putin said he wants to work with world leaders to defeat Islamic terrorism, saying Russia and the West “should stand much closer together in the battle against terror, which is a huge challenge.”
“If we're also not agreed every time and on every point, no-one should use that as a pretext to declare us to be enemies,” he adds.Reuse content