Two high-level/high-humor meetings took place in Ukraine on Thursday.
When Yushchenko met with Saakashvili in Kyiv, he spoke Ukrainian and misspelled Medvedev’s first name and patronymic as Анатолій Дмитрович (Anatoly Dmytrovych).
In Russian, that would be Анатолий Дмитриевич (Anatoly Dmitriyevich), an ass-backwards version of Дмитрий Анатольевич (Dmitry Anatolyevich).
Ukrainian President Yushchenko: Today, I made an appeal to the Russian President, Анатолій Дмитрович [Anatoly Dmytrovych]...uh...that they [gas agreements] be reviewed and canceled because their motive is not based on organizing symmetric market relations of two businesses regarding the issue at hand.
Spokeswoman Iryna Vannykova: Mr. President, you misspoke slightly. You said Анатолій Дмитрович [Anatoly Dmytrovych] when you should have said Дмитро Анатолійович [Dmytro Anatoliyovych]. I don’t know if it’s worth telling you...
Vannykova [to Yushchenko]: OK, let’s wrap it up then.
Vannykova [to reporters]: OK, colleagues, thank you! The press conference is over. Thanks!
For some reason, Yushchenko chose not to correct himself even after his whispering spokeswoman quickly approached him about it.
When Tymoshenko met with Putin in Yalta, Crimea, Ukraine, later in the day, the two spoke Russian.
Putin didn’t behave like a guest. He behaved like a czar. And Tymoshenko behaved like his sweetheart.
Asked about Yushchenko and Saakashvili — and their pilgrimage to the Holodomor Memorial in Kyiv — Putin paraded his sense of Berlusconi 2.0 humor.
Poking fun at Yushchenko’s support of Saakashvili in the Russia-Georgia of 2008, Putin built a cascade of jokes. One of them even had a Pushkin quote interpolated into it.
Putin’s joke about the danger that Saakashvili and his nervous tie-munching behavior could pose to Yushchenko elicited an outburst of laughter and admiration from Tymoshenko. See for yourself.
Russian PM Vladimir Putin: Uh...what our colleagues were doing, I have no idea, but I think that...uh...two presidents always have things to talk about: to discuss somethin', to go someplace* [smiles]: “The warriors recalled their days bygone, and all the battles they never won.”** Maybe that was that [audience explodes with laughter]. We...we’re going together to...we’re now going to...to a dinner...my colleague has invited me...to...I’d say we’ll be talking about...about Chekhov. Well...that’s it, I guess. Oh yes, what else can I advise and recommend? Uh...the two presidents would better have their dinner — should they have dinner — with their ties off.*** Ties cost a lot now. Heaven forbid...you know what I’m talking about [audience explodes with laughter].
Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko [gets excited, addresses Putin by patronymic]: Vladimirovich, I definitely can have dinner with my tie off!
Putin: Ha, lest the guests will...gobble up Yushchenko’s tie!
*Reflects on Yushchenko and Saakashvili visiting the Holodomor Memorial, an issue in the reporter's question [full video available here];
**Quotes from Alexander Pushkin’s The Song of Oleg the Wise [verse translation mine];
***Refers to Saakashvili’s tie-munching behavior.
Bravo! This comes as a sequel to the famous “mazurik” joke that Putin cracked about Yushchenko while meeting with Tymoshenko in Moscow in October 2008.
Putin and Tymoshenko should finally coin the term humor diplomacy.
Let's say Merkel goes to Russia and takes a pot shot at the Siege of Leningrad and the million of Russians who perished in the famine. Meanwhile, Hu goes to New York, Washington or Jerusalem and pokes fun at 9/11 and the Holocaust. How's that for a start?
Oh, by the way, Mr. Putin, thank you for your generosity! It’s a huge relief you won’t fine Ukraine based on those whorrible “we take, you pay” terms of the gas deal that you and Tymoshenko had signed last January.
You may now take off your tie and take your sweetheart to the finest restaurant in town.
Make yourself at home!
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