Vladimir Putin said in an interview with CCTV that he celebrated his last birthday with vodka, sandwiches and Xi Jinping.
Before a group interview with foreign press in Sochi, the Russian president jokingly said to a CCTV reporter, “Give us mao-tai please,” referring to the strong Chinese liquor.
He then recalled how he spent his 61st birthday last October with his Chinese counterpart.
“Last time at my birthday, we drank a little vodka together,” he said. “We even had sandwiches like university students.”
The interview has not yet been broadcast but CCTV has released a clip of the above exchange and a still of Putin smiling with his arm around reporter Shui Junyi.
“It was a very special courtesy for me as a Chinese reporter,” Shui said in a broadcast with a CCTV anchor. “He said our two countries were good friends…and when he said this he suddenly stretched out his arm and gave me a warm hug.”
“Everyone there, including the president’s people, was a little surprised,” he said. “I was moved by his warmth.”
A section where Weibo users could ask Putin questions had more than two million hits in four hours.
Shui relayed one netizen’s suggestion to the president: “Putin, you are so handsome. You should star in tough-guy films after you retire!”
Putin responded that he might join an amateur ice hockey club for the over-40s instead, after he was pictured three years ago displaying his skating skills at an ice hockey game with Russia’s national team.
Watch: Putin recalls drinking vodka with Xi Jinping