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Vladimir Putin stands 70ft from British ambassador in Moscow meeting due to 'sanitary reasons'

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed "sanitary reasons" prompted his refusal to stand within 70ft of Britain's ambassador to Moscow at a ceremony in the Kremlin.

Putin called for "a change for the better" in relations between Moscow and London at the event on Monday at the Alexander Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace.

The relationship has broken down over the ongoing Ukraine war in which the UK has provided military assistance to the country in its fight to liberate territory seized by Russia.

It was already strained due to years of alleged subterfuge and spycraft by Putin's regime, including the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal.

The ceremony saw the Russian leader accept the diplomatic credentials of several new ambassadors to Russia, including Britain's new representative in Moscow Nigel Casey.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin delivering a speech during a ceremony to receive credentials from newly appointed foreign ambassadors (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin delivering a speech during a ceremony to receive credentials from newly appointed foreign ambassadors (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Putin has been frequently seen close to multiple people in recent days but said that due to "sanitary reasons" he could not go near the officials and so delivered his speech to those assembled 70ft away.

Putin told the envoys - including the new ambassadors of Germany and Australia: "Unfortunately, for sanitary reasons, we cannot talk more, socialise.

"I hope that better times will come, not only in politics but also in health care, and we will be able to do so.

"In any case, as a matter of routine, both myself, the Foreign Minister [Sergey Lavrov], and my assistant for international affairs [Yuri Ushakov] are always at your disposal."

Despite the claim over health fears Putin has been seen in close contacts with others in recent days.

Vladimir Putin interacts with children at the International exhibition
Vladimir Putin interacts with children at the International exhibition "Russia" at VDNKh (The Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy) in Moscow (AP)

In his speech the Russian leader referenced 80th anniversary of the Tehran Conference of the heads of the three allied states: the Soviet Union, the US and Britain - Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, "which laid the foundations of the modern system of international relations".

Putin said: "In the post-war period and until recently, our countries managed to build interaction based on the understanding of their special responsibility for maintaining global peace, stability and security as permanent members of the UN Security Council.

"But the current state of affairs in the dialogue with London is common knowledge, and let us hope that the situation will change for the better in the interests of our two countries and peoples."

On arrival in Moscow, Casey told the Kremlin that "ending the human suffering" caused by Putin in Ukraine was Britain's priority.

Newly appointed foreign ambassadors to Russia attend a ceremony to hand over their diplomatic credentials to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow (via REUTERS)
Newly appointed foreign ambassadors to Russia attend a ceremony to hand over their diplomatic credentials to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow (via REUTERS)

Standing at his official residence with his back to the Kremlin, and speaking in Russian, he said: 'Maintaining relations with the Russian government and the Russian people remains important to the UK, perhaps today more important than ever.

"Decisions taken by Russia matter not only for the UK, but the whole world.

"Few of the issues, currently facing us, are more important than ending the human suffering caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine."

Telegram channel General SVR claimed today that it was a Putin doppelgänger who greeted the ambassadors on arrival in Moscow because of Putin's alleged poor health.

The reason for the distance between Putin and leaders was so that the ambassadors could not see the face of the double which would have given the game away.

"The backup accepted credentials from the newly arrived ambassadors of foreign states," it claimed.

However the Kremlin has consistently denied that there is anything wrong with Putin's health.