Prime Minister John Key has admitted that his brief encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin amounted to “pretty much nothing,” and that, rather than saying anything or attempting to make inroads on any of New Zealand’s core interests, he just stared blankly before walking away.
Key, who had earlier claimed he’d spoken to Putin about a wide variety of issues – including two New Zealanders detained by the Russian government for their actions with Greenpeace – was forced today to admit he’d made that up, after a journalist released an informal transcript of the encounter.
“Yeah, well there were a lot of people in the room at the time. I didn’t actually know that I’d see him,” he explained. “I was a bit overwhelmed, really. I didn’t know what to say. I just thought ‘Wow, there’s Putin.’ I mean, what do you say? ‘Hi, I’m the Prime Minister of New Zealand’? That’s kind of unimpressive.”
According to a written transcript, Putin attempted numerous times to initiate conversation, but eventually gave up when Key ducked his head bashfully and walked off. He then approached a group of New Zealand diplomats and told them how he’d “just met the President of Russia” and that “it was great.”
Key’s meeting with Putin comes just over a week after a trip to England in which he was so excited to meet the Queen that he nearly vomited on her.