Russian President Vladimir Putin has told a German newspaper he did not mean to scare Chancellor Angela Merkel when he brought his pet Labrador in to meet her during an infamous press conference nine years ago.
Merkel, reportedly fearful of dogs since one attacked her in 1995, was photographed looking distinctly uncomfortable when Putin brought his large black Labrador Koni into a meeting at his summer residence in Sochi, Russia, in January 2007.
The Russian leader appeared to smirk as he watched his pet approach his uneasy VIP guest.
Now, years on, Putin has told German newspaper Bild he had no intention of intimidating Merkel.
“I wanted to do something nice for her,” he told the newspaper, in an interview published Monday.
“When I found out that she doesn’t like dogs, of course I apologized.”
Putin’s treatment of Merkel, in office for less than two years at the time, reportedly rankled the German press corps.
According to a 2014 New Yorker profile of the German leader, Merkel responded to Koni’s presence by quipping, in Russian: “It doesn’t eat journalists, after all.”
The magazine reported she had later told journalists: “I understand why he has to do this — to prove he’s a man. … He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.”
Elsewhere in the Bild interview, Putin was complimentary of the German leader although he denied having said he admired her.
“I never said that. I value her as very professional and open,” he said.
Putin said that, despite tensions with the West, both sides had a shared interest in fighting Islamic terrorism.
“We should stand together much more globally in the fight against terror, which is a big challenge,” he said. “Even though we don’t agree every time and on every subject, no one should take that as an excuse to declare us enemies.” – CNN