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Russia’s Putin enjoys vodka-laced birthday diplomacy

In perhaps an unprecedented burst of birthday diplomacy, Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated turning 61 by quaffing vodka, wolfing down cake and being serenaded by some of the world’s most powerful men.

Putin Tuesday recounted a series of light-hearted birthday moments that livened up the normally dour conference halls of a trade-focused Asia-Pacific leaders’ summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

In a late-night meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, Putin pulled out a bottle of vodka for a toast after his counterpart presented him with a cake.

“It was 11:00 pm. I offered our Chinese friends to raise a shot of vodka,” Putin said, according to Russian state news agency ITAR-TASS.

“They did not refuse, so we did just that.”

As for the cake: “We wolfed it down successfully”. Needless to say, Putin described his meeting with Xi as “very warm” and “friendly”.

The tone had been set earlier in the day when Putin walked into a room to see Xi standing alongside Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was strumming a guitar and singing “Happy Birthday” into a microphone.

A visibly surprised Putin smiled as Yudhoyono, a former general-turned politician who in his spare time has made a series of love-song albums, serenaded him and Xi clapped along.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also gave Putin a bottle of sake. However the Russian leader said it was too early in the day for a drink so he gave it to his aides for safe keeping.

“We’ll get to it in Moscow,” he added.