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‘They make you smile’: Putin & Xi go full panda diplomacy at Moscow Zoo (PHOTO, VIDEO)

‘They make you smile’: Putin & Xi go full panda diplomacy at Moscow Zoo (PHOTO, VIDEO)
Following the official talks at the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping went to the Moscow Zoo to meet the two giant pandas that have been handed to Russia by China as a “sign of respect and trust.”

Endangered pandas are considered a national treasure in China, with Russia becoming one of just 18 countries in the world to host the cute bamboo-loving creatures.

“When we talk about pandas, a smile appears on our faces,” Putin told the journalists during a press-conference earlier on Wednesday.


The Russian president thanked his Chinese counterpart for the “friendly gesture” of sending the animals to Moscow, which he said showed that Beijing honored bilateral ties and held Russian animal experts in the highest regard.

Two giant pandas – a male called Ru Yi, who turns three on July 30, and a female named Ding Ding, who is one year and one day younger – arrived from Sichuan in southwestern China in April, and have been in preventive quarantine since then.

Putin and Xi visited them at the newly-built pavilion to make the handover official. Ru Yi and Ding Ding will spend the next 15 years in the Russian capital, while remaining the property of the Chinese state. If they manage to deliver cubs – pandas are known to reluctantly reproduce in captivity – they will also belong to Beijing.


“The pandas are feeling amazing,” Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin assured the two leaders. The black-and-white beasts backed his words by munching carrots and bamboo with great appetite and looking absolutely unimpeded by the high-ranked guests.


The Moscow Zoo applied to join the Chinese program for preserving, protecting and studying pandas in 2016. The talks went on for three years, which may be considered quite a short term after the Finland and the Netherlands needed 10 and 16 years, respectively, to negotiate the same deal. The rapidly developing political and economic relations between Moscow and Beijing surly played a part in speeding up the so-called “panda diplomacy”.

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The ordinary visitors will be able to see the Chinese guests starting on Thursday. The Muscovites must be missing the pandas, as the local zoo last had some on display back in 2001.

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