Putin, leaders and the obsession with DNA

Of Guido Olimpio and Paolo Valentino

Before Putin’s table and the molecular tests rejected by Macron and Scholz, there were decades of intrigue to get their hands on the biometric data of foreign leaders: all the famous cases, from the feces of the Filipino Marcos to the toilet of the North Korean Kim Jong-un

Arrived in Moscow within a week of each other to meet Vladimir Putin, both Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz both refused to take the molecular test for Covid offered by the Kremlin medical services. But since it was essential to see the Russian president, the French president and the German chancellor underwent a PCR performed by the doctors of their respective embassies, with devices brought from France and Germany. Russian medical personnel were invited to attend the trial. The reason for the refusal that Macron and Scholz did not want the Russians to get hold of their DNA.

But why would the Kremlin services have been so interested in the genetic code of the two leaders? Especially since it would not have been so difficult to obtain it, with only a glass used by the two or a few strands of hair left on a chair. First of all, it would not have been as clear and legible as that obtained from a Covid test – explains Florian Schimikowski, historian of the German Museum of Espionage -, but the point that data has become a precious commodity and genetic traces are certainly the most sensitive and personal. For the secret services a real gold mine, even if only for future reference.

a fact that many intelligence agencies have always been interested in people’s biometric data. In the United States, unconfirmed rumors claim that the CIA has access to DNA archives, created with evidence sent freely by private citizens, for example for genealogical research. The WikiLeaks cables mention an order from Hillary Clinton, at the time she was Secretary of State, to obtain any individual details, DNA included, of African exponents. a story that goes backwards.

In the 1980s, US intelligence allegedly stole the feces of the Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. certain instead that he collected the medical records of Saddam Hussein and other Arab leaders in Western hospitals. In February 1999, the Mossad allegedly seized the Syrian leader’s urine Hafez Assad during King Hussein’s funeral in Jordan, a move to understand his state of health in view of possible negotiations. Could Israel bet on a sick man? The ras will die a few months later.

A story considered by some to be an urban legend but which has left its mark. So much so that the North Korean dictator Kim Jong un, on the occasion of the summit with Donald Trump in Singapore in 2018, he brought his personal toilet with him. That is to say, so everyone does. In the Ddr the Stasi also collected olfactory evidence of the regime’s enemies in its archives. According to Schimikowski, his Russian masters also collected genetic personal data and most likely the passion remains.

But for what use, in the case of foreign political leaders? Not only to understand their health conditions and draw political consequences, as would have been the case with Assad, but also to find any hereditary diseases or the origin of their ancestors. All information that could theoretically be used for blackmail or negative propaganda purposes. Or the services could use the data to plot trapsfabricating fake news and unfairly involving a prime minister, minister or deputy in a crime or an extra-marital affair.

When diplomacy ends and a war begins, the going gets tough and dirty measurements theoretically become part of the arsenalsays Schimikowski. The concerns of Macron and Scholz are therefore better understood, although there are no concrete indications that the PCR requested by the Kremlin also had ulterior motives. However, Vladimir Putin himself is very keen on the safety of his DNAlong before the outbreak of the pandemic.

At the G20 summit in Osaka in 2019, the head of the Kremlin walked around with a personal thermos full of tea. The photos show him drinking directly from the container, with Donald Trump next to him guzzling Coca Cola from a glass cup. Yet, according to Ronald Kessler, author of a book on the Secret Service, until a few years ago the agents took care of raking any object, including sheets, used by the president in his engagements outside the White House. But perhaps, in Moscow on The Donald they have more than one cup.

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