With Vladimir Putin the world has become accustomed to tough talk. So it was something of surprise when the Russian leader bared his emotions to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV about his counterpart Xi Jinping. Putin was visibly moved as he described how Xi had celebrated with him his turning 61 at a summit in Bali in 2013.
“We finished the day’s work and he celebrated my birthday with me. This might seem irrelevant, but to talk about President Xi, this is where I would like to start,” he said in the interview, adding that he and Xi had enjoyed drinks and “sliced some sausage” together.
“I’ve never established such relations or made such arrangements with any other foreign colleague, but I did it with President Xi,” Putin told CCTV.
It does not appear Xi went so far as to sing happy birthday to Putin, but Xi did produce a cake. In return Putin got out a bottle of vodka, and over sausage sandwiches and shots they discussed their respective fathers’ experiences during World War Two.
Relations between the pair look to have strengthened further in the past five years, with Putin in Qingdao last weekend for a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
According to the South China Morning Post, Xi has visited Moscow more than any other capital since coming to power and has met Putin 20 times.