'Pancake diplomacy': Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping flip pancakes at Russian economic forum

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping making pancakes during a visit to the Far East Street exhibition in Vladivostok, Russia, on Sept 11, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

VLADIVOSTOK (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping on Tuesday (Sept 12) took a break from the heavy lifting of international diplomacy to toss pancakes on the sidelines of an economic forum.

Mr Xi is one of the big names at the event in the Russian far eastern city of Vladivostok, where the focus has been on economic ties and North Korea.

But the two leaders found time to flip blini on "Far East Street", an exhibition of the region's cultural and economic achievements.

Photos showed Mr Putin and Mr Xi, wearing blue aprons, pouring out batter and turning the pancakes over before eating them with caviar and a shot of vodka.

The pair earlier in the day praised their countries' increasingly close ties, with Mr Xi saying their "friendship was getting stronger all the time".

This is not Mr Putin and Mr Xi's first foray into batter-based cooking. During a visit to China in June, the Russian leader made a Chinese pancake which Mr Xi tried.

Separately, during a press briefing with Mr Xi after talks at the economic forum, Mr Putin said Moscow and Beijing plan to use their own national currencies more often in trade deals as Russia's relations with the West deteriorate.

"The Russian and Chinese sides confirmed their interest in using national currencies more actively in reciprocal payments," Mr Putin told journalists.

He added this would "increase the stability of banks' servicing of export and import operations while there are ongoing risks on global markets".

Russia has faced ever harsher sanctions since angering the West and Kiev by annexing Crimea in 2014 and backing separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

In recent months the United States has imposed more sanctions over alleged Russian interference in the presidential elections and the poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain.

Since the latest round of US sanctions and under the threat of further measures, the ruble has dropped sharply in value against the dollar and euro. The yuan has fallen steadily against the dollar in recent months.

Mr Putin in July said that "political disputes" were "damaging the dollar as the global reserve currency". He said that the Chinese yuan was meanwhile "acquiring the qualities" of a reserve currency.

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