NATIONAL

Protocol jitters

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and his wife, Lyudmila, at Mahatma Gandhi's samadhi at Rajghat, New Delhi, on Wednesday. — Photo: Anu Pushkarna

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and his wife, Lyudmila, at Mahatma Gandhi's samadhi at Rajghat, New Delhi, on Wednesday. — Photo: Anu Pushkarna  

New Delhi Dec. 4. Protocol jitters continued for the second day today as the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, arrived about 15 minutes behind schedule for the ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

In the normal course, the programme is synchronised in such a manner that dignitaries arrive one after another, leaving virtually no gap. The President, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, and the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, after waiting for a few minutes, occupied chairs especially positioned for them under the canopy facing the sun.

The two leaders had a brief conversation before Mr. Putin, accompanied by his wife, Lyudmila Putin, arrived around 10.15 a.m, escorted by the President's mounted bodyguards.

He was accorded a 21-gun salute as he inspected an impressive guard of honour.

Vodka `protection'

Vodka is "protecting" the Russian President, Vladimir Putin's health, during his official visit here.

But he is not drinking it — he is reportedly only an occasional wine drinker — but wary aides are using Russia's national tipple as a disinfectant to wash his hotel cutlery.

The staff at the Hotel Maurya Sheraton, where Mr. Putin is staying, said on Wednesday that before the leader's arrival, a Russian microbiologist used the liquor to wash the knives and forks to be used by him and his wife, Lyudmila.

``The cutlery was dipped in vodka and then set out to dry on a towel,'' the public affairs chief, Sonya Bakshi, said.Mr. Putin's suite was also scoured by Russian and Indian security agents, as well as cleaners, before his arrival on Tuesday to ensure high levels of hygiene, she said. The Russian officials travelling with Mr. Putin, and the Russian Embassy officials declined to comment. — AP

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