'I did not clap': Former FT Editor reveals moment Putin played 'Chopsticks' on piano

18 March 2022, 13:04

By Tim Dodd

Former Editor of the FT Lionel Barber reveals the moment that Vladimir Putin played the beginners' Piano song 'Chopsticks' at a dinner he attended.

Mr Barber described his three meetings totalling around five-and-a half hours with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"First time was in Davos when I was asked to chair a discussion with Putin with other international journalists, second time was an intimate dinner at the Russian embassy in 2013 where, believe it or not... at the end of the dinner he played the piano, [he] played Chopsticks."

"Actually Chopsticks?" James asked.

"Absolutely Chopsticks," Mr Barber replied.

"Very heavy for Moscow, very light for St Petersburg. And we were all expected to clap, I did not."

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James asked Mr Barber whether he could "see" in Putin's eyes how "evil or oppressive" he would turn out to be.

"It is a chilling thing to look into the whites of Putin's eyes, he is the master of destabilisation, he can easily put you off balance," Mr Barber said.

"On 2001, 2000, Russia was in such a weak position after the collapse of the Soviet union, it was chaos, and Putin was a man you could do business with around the war on terror.

"But by 2019 you could sense the list of grievances that he had about the West: America, there are no rules, look at Iraq, look at Georgia, NATO, Ukraine. So you could tell there were festering grievances, what you couldn't tell was that he was going to order a full-scale invasion of Ukraine."

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