Putin Recalls Spying Days on a German Talk Show

WEIMAR, Germany -- The usually reserved President Vladimir Putin talked about his days as a KGB spy in Dresden in the 1980s in an unusual talk show appearance late Tuesday when visiting the east German city of Weimar.

In the hour-long interview alongside Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Putin said the German leader helped him quietly meet an old friend linked to the former East German spy agency when he returned to Dresden in September.

"I told Gerhard that when I am in Dresden, my wife and I would like to meet someone ... a woman who belongs to a family of a former State Security official.

"Gerhard's answer pleased me greatly," he said. "He said it was all the same to him, it was a personal meeting, and he said he would be glad if our friend came along. He invited her to lunch and to a ride on the Elbe River."

"It seems like a minor detail, but for me it was a good sign," he said in the live television show that ended at midnight.

At the time both the Kremlin and German officials denied that Putin had met any friends with connections to the Stasi, whose former members are shunned in German public life.

Putin told the story to illustrate his good ties with Schröder, who was hosting the Russian leader for a two-day summit in Weimar that was to end Wednesday.

Putin served as a spy in Dresden from 1984 to 1990. In the interview, he joked at first that the job was full of adventure as in James Bond novels, but then he changed his line.

"Speaking seriously, it was really routine work. I was dealing with information," he said, providing no further details.

Speaking at Weimar's National Theater, Putin told how he had developed a taste for beer while living in Germany and how his daughters both speak German like natives.

Putin has told some of these stories before, but he rarely goes into much detail when discussing his work before he became involved in politics.

Asked how he had such a positive attitude toward Germany given his parents' suffering in World War II -- his father was a soldier, his mother was in the Leningrad blockade -- Putin cited past Russian military victories.

"The Russians have no hate toward the Germans," he said. "I don't know if Germans will like this answer, but Russia never lost a war against Germany. ... There is no inner feeling of being wounded."

Putin spoke in Russian on the talk show, but Schröder praised his German.

"He has a very intense relationship to the German language and Germany," he said. "He can tell many jokes in German."

Putin also showed his appreciation for local cuisine before the show by sharing blood sausage, suckling pig and baked apple with Schröder at a nearby restaurant.