Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview published Monday that he did not mean to scare German Chancellor Angela Merkel with his dog at a meeting in 2007.
Merkel is rumoured to have a fear of dogs after having once been bitten. Putin gave Merkel a toy dog after meeting her in 2006 in Moscow, and media reports at the time speculated that the gift was meant to intimidate her.
A year later, Putin allowed his sizable black Labrador, Connie, to attend a meeting with Merkel when she visited him in Sochi. Photos of the meeting showed Merkel appearing rather nervous around the dog.
"I showed her my dog because I thought she would like it," Putin told Germany's most popular tabloid, Bild, in the interview published Monday.
Putin explained that he did not know Merkel had a fear of dogs. "I did not know anything about that," he said. "I told her so later and apologized."
Putin and Merkel speak each other's languages and have managed to keep up contacts despite adamant disagreement over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014 and an enduring pro-Russian separatist rebellion in Ukraine's east.
Putin told Bild that he remains close friends with Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, who left the chancellorship in 2005. But Putin noted that now relations between the countries are considerably different.
"In this respect, I am neither a friend, nor bride or groom," Putin said. "I am the president of 146 million Russians. I have to represent their interests."