It is stated in this Guardian article (Macron was kept away from Putin in Kremlin for ‘refusing Russian Covid test’), that Macron refused a Russian Covid test because France did not want Russia to get Macron's DNA.

But the two sources, who have knowledge of the French president’s health protocol, told Reuters Macron had been given a choice: either he accepted a PCR test done by the Russian authorities and was allowed to get close to Putin, or he refused and had to abide by more stringent social distancing.

“We knew very well that meant no handshake and that long table. But we could not accept that they get their hands on the president’s DNA,” one of the sources told Reuters, referring to security concerns if the French leader was tested by Russian doctors.

Why did France not want Russia to get Macron's DNA? What could Russia do with his DNA if they got it?

And if Russia really wanted to get his DNA, could they not have taken it from a cup or glass (or bottle) that he drank from? Or from a fallen hair next to the chair he sat in?

  • 2
    DNA can be analyzed regarding all kinds of health problems and risks ... I've read somewhere that the US president travels with their own toilet to prevent foreign agents from getting any health information.
    – Roland
    Feb 11, 2022 at 9:19
  • 17
    Just because one advisor thinks, or says, that was the reason doesn't make it so. It's possible, likely even, this has nothing to do with DNA and is about posturing and dominance games. Putin demands Macron submits to tests, implying Macron's word he has a clean PCR test isn't good enough. Macron refuses making clear he won't give in to what he sees as petty demands. See for example the ridiculously childish carnival of supposed world leaders scurrying to be the one to hold the door thereby being the one to 'let' the other leader in to the room at one of the big summits a few years back.
    – Eric Nolan
    Feb 11, 2022 at 9:47
  • 1
    You might be interested: biology.stackexchange.com/questions/107233/… Although it's apparently off-topic there.
    – Allure
    Feb 11, 2022 at 10:16
  • Here is the BBC's answer to that question. Note further down in the article that the same "long-table diplomacy" seems to have been playing out for other leaders visiting with Putin.
    – ccprog
    Feb 11, 2022 at 17:07
  • It's possible you can gain a lot more info from a swab test than you can from just grabbing a hair or whatever. Just ask Theranos about the difference between a drop of blood and having a normal sized blood sample.
    – eps
    Feb 11, 2022 at 20:31

2 Answers 2


Let me first note that Macron is not the only person who refused to submit to such a test - chancellor Scholz similarly refused during his recent meeting with Putin. Also, as remarked in the comments, biometric data protection for high level state representatives is commonplace, e.g., for the US president.

Pressure games
Much of what happens in politics is about psychological pressure, and making a foreign leader to submit to a Russian-made test is a part of this. Pushing buttons is the domain where Russians historically excel, often cited in the popular culture, e.g., in House of cards.

Note that this is just one of many elements: e.g., the exquisite meal served to the two leaders was accompanied by a Russian wine, which is particularly meaningful to French (if you think that such little things don't metter, remember Freedom fries and overpriced French wines during the era when France refused to go into Iraq). I cannot say whether it was a Crimean wine, but it is a possibility.

Collecting biometric information
Biometric information can be used not only to cause direct physical harm, but for manipulation/blackmail.

There seem to be some misconceptions about what one could learn from a sample for PCR test and from DNA:

  • The sample is taken either from nose or from mouth (blood sample is also an option, but excessive for Covid). There is a lot more in this sample than the DNA - e.g., antibodies are not a part of the DNA, but can provide extensive information about the infectious diseases that one is immune to (and by their absence, the diseases that one is not immune to).
  • DNA itself does contain a lot of information that can be exploited - many genetically transmitted diseases can be identified on the basis of DNA, and risks of cancers are routinely predicted by this method (Angelina Jolie's voluntary masectomy is an example of how trusted this information is).
  • Other type of information that can be reliably extracted from DNA is about ancestral relationships between people and is known to create controversies - e.g., about the Windsor's right to the throne. I will not speculate about what could be learned in this way about Macron, but there are quite a few conspiracy theories floating around about him, his wife and their relationships, e.g., see this; note also that one could claim scientific support for such claims without having actual scientific basis - this is how conspiracy theories work.

It looks like the most a hostile person can do with someone's DNA is deduce if the someone is more vulnerable to certain diseases. They can then use that as blackmail - by threatening to release embarrassing health information about the person.

However, fears are likely overblown because the science isn't there yet, and even if it is, the most that the hostile person can say is something like "Macron has a higher chance of high blood pressure than most people" - which is not especially embarrassing. Possessing DNA definitely does not allow the hostile person to design an individually-targeted bioweapon.


“You can use DNA to identify disease risk, so (the world leaders) might be at risk for a disease,” said Howard McLeod, a genetics expert and director of precision medicine at the Florida-based Geriatric Oncology Consortium. “You could look and see if there could be some ancestry elements that could be exploited.”

But in general, he said, the idea of learning more about someone like a world leader through DNA probably “seems a lot more scary than it is in reality.”

Beckman said it seemed “farfetched” to think that the information gathered could be politically damaging.

“What are you going to do, say that Macron has a slightly higher risk of blood pressure?” Beckman asked. “But then I don’t spend a lot of time trying to dream up ways to weaponize someone’s genetic information.”

George Annas, a bioethicist who has written extensively about the importance of genetic privacy, wants to make one thing clear: “DNA is not magic. It’ll give you some information, but it’s not going to tell you how you can assassinate somebody."

But even without the capability to build an individually targeted bioweapon, the power of suggestion can be enough to compromise world leaders, and Russia has been known to employ kompromat — blackmailing someone by threatening to release embarrassing information about them.

(I don't understand the last paragraph, given that the "embarrassing information" is not very embarrassing.)

  • Sure it could. It could sew seeds of doubt as to his lineage and identity. Not particularly damning as an individual, nor cause for his immediate removal from office, but certainly a possible issue for future politics. Embarrassing doesn't need to be serious to be just that: embarrassing. "E.g. The leader of France isn't French at all..." Doesn't even need to be true, just "his DNA proved it" ... I know I can't read DNA samples...so I 'believe' the news...
    – CGCampbell
    Feb 23, 2022 at 16:25

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