Putins body language analysed: Two chilling reasons leader sits across table from rivals

Putin and UN Secretary General ‘separated’ says expert

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The Russian leader has been pictured and filmed numerous times with a conspicuously large table placed between him and any visiting politician. Most recently, Putin sat on one end of the table and placed UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, at the receiving end of this bizarre seating arrangement in Moscow.

The immense table is around five metres in length, the surface held up by three separate columns.

But there is a two-fold agenda to Putin’s choice of furniture, Dr Patrick Stewart of the University of Arkansas explained to Express.co.uk.

One could certainly be the risk of Covid infection, suggested Dr Stewart, but another could be a more subtle indicator.

The length of the table, and the gulf of space between the leaders, could “be more of an indicator of and emphasis on the distance between the two parties in reaching an agreement”, Professor Stewart added.

A similar spectacle greeted French President Emmanuel Macron when he travelled to Russia in February 2022.

Visiting a fortnight before the invasion got underway, the French leader visited the Kremlin for negotiations with Putin over the Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border.

But Mr Macron refused to take a Russian COVID-19 test, fearing Russia may keep his DNA on file, according to sources close to the president.

One source told Reuters: “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.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Mr Macron’s refusal to take a Russian-administered PCR test meant the leader would have to maintain a constant, six-metre distance from the Russian leader.

He added: “There is no politics in this, it does not interfere with negotiations in any way.”

But just days after the two leaders were photographed on opposite ends of the lengthy table, Putin met with the Kazakh president, shaking hands and sitting in close proximity to one another.

It is not known whether the Kazakh leader, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, took a Russian PCR test prior to the meeting.

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The “long table” tactic, as it has been dubbed, is one also tested out by Putin on Hungarian leader Viktor Orban and Ebrahim Raisi, president of Iran.

And paranoia about 69-year-old Putin contracting COVID-19 – despite claims he has received multiple vaccines against the disease – certainly plays on the minds of senior Kremlin officials, some experts have argued.

Dr Ben Noble, associate professor of Russian politics at University College London, said the political fallout of Putin’s death from the disease, or debilitating illness, would be a motivating factor.

He told The Independent: “Given Putin’s centrality to the functioning of the current system – which often relies more on informal connections than formal institutions – his illness poses an existential threat to its continued functioning.”

He added: “A question of personal health, therefore, becomes a question of national security, especially given uncertainty about who would actually take over if he were to become seriously (or gravely) ill.”

Whatever Putin’s motivation, it is a spectacle that attracted ridicule from Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky.

In a speech directed at the Russian leader, he quipped: “Sit down with me to negotiate, just not at 30 meters.

“I don’t bite. What are you afraid of?”

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