French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly refused a Russian PCR Covid test ahead of his Ukraine talks with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Monday due to fears his DNA would be stolen by Moscow.
Mr Macron's refusal to take a test meant the visiting head of state was kept apart from the Russian leader during their lengthy talks on the Ukraine crisis, sources close to the French president told Reuters
The socially distanced talks took place at opposite ends of an almost comically long table that sparked speculation as to whether Mr Putin might be using it to send a message to Western leaders amid escalating tensions over fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
"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.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed Macron had declined the test which meant the two presidents were kept six metres apart.
"There is no politics in this, it does not interfere with negotiations in any way," he said.
Mr Macron reportedly took a French PCR test before departure and an antigen test that was done by his own doctor when he arrived Russia, according to another source.
"The Russians told us Putin needed to be kept in a strict health bubble," they said.
Mr Macron's office said the Russian health protocol "did not seem to us to be either acceptable or compatible with our diary constraints".
When asked concerns over DNA theft, Macron’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."
Three days after Mr Macron and his Russian counterpart had their socially-distanced meeting, the Putin received Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev where the two men shook hands, and sat near each other.