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Putin says once invited ex-German Chancellor Schroeder to banya and it burnt to ground

Because of this, the Russian President reminds, he never invites his foreign colleagues to Russian traditional steam house any more
Gerhard Schroeder (left), Vladimir Putin ITAR-TASS Archive/Vladimir Rodionov
Gerhard Schroeder (left), Vladimir Putin
© ITAR-TASS Archive/Vladimir Rodionov

MOSCOW, April 16. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he enjoyed going to banya, which is to some extent a Russian equivalent of a Finnish sauna, but he is not inviting there his foreign colleagues anymore after a fire some years ago.

During his annual question and answer session on Thursday, officially known as "The Direct Line with Vladimir Putin," the Russian president was asked whether he ever invited his foreign counterparts to banya, where political discussions could have been "more interesting rather than dull roundtable talks."

In reply to the question Putin said that many years ago he invited to banya former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and banya burnt to the ground.

"Many years ago we were at my residence, decided to go to banya and it caught fire," Putin said. "Just after he [Schroeder] poured himself beer, I came up and said ‘Gerhard, we need to get out of here, there is a fire.’ He tells me in response ‘Just wait till I finish my beer and then we can go.’ I told him — are you crazy?"

The Russian president said that Schroeder, nevertheless, finished his beer before they left banya.

"He [Schroeder] is a tough guy with an attitude," Putin said adding that banya eventually burnt to the ground "and since then we never went there."

"But on the whole I love banya and often go there," the Russian president said.

Banya is a traditional Russian steam bath house, where temperatures often exceed 93 degrees Celsius (almost 200 Fahrenheit) and traditional felt hats are usually worn inside the bath house in order to protect heads from intense heat. People also do massage inside by hitting each other with birch or oak twigs, which must be soaked in hot water in advance.