MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev joked on Monday that visiting Prime Minister David Cameron would have made a very good KGB agent, after Cameron suggested that the Soviet security service tried to recruit him when he was a student.
“I am convinced David would have been a very good KGB agent but in this case he would have never become prime minister of Britain,” Medvedev said at a joint news conference at the Kremlin as both leaders laughed.
Cameron earlier tried to break the ice in a speech to students at Moscow State University by recalling how he had first visited Russia in the waning years of the Cold War in 1985 during a gap year between school and university.
“I took the Trans-Siberian Railway from Nakhodka to Moscow and went on to the Black Sea coast. There two Russians — speaking perfect English — turned up on a beach mostly used by foreigners,” he said.
“They took me out to lunch and dinner and asked me about life in England and what I thought about politics. When I got back I told my tutor at university and he asked me whether it was an interview. If it was, it seems I didn’t get the job!” he said.
When a journalist asked Medvedev later whether Cameron would have made a good KGB agent, Cameron jumped in to say: “The answer to that last question I think is no, let’s be clear about that.”
The joke was a rare light-hearted moment during Cameron’s 24-hour visit because relations between Russia and Britain remain soured by a murder in London that could be drawn straight from a Cold War spy story.
Cameron was making the first visit to Russia by a British prime minister since former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died in London from poisoning by radioactive polonium-210 in 2006.
Russia refuses to extradite Andrei Lugovoy, a former KGB bodyguard who is now a lawmaker in the Russian parliament. Britain wants to prosecute him over the killing.
Cameron was meeting later on Monday with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, himself once a KGB spy.
Cameron first told the story about his suspected brush with the KGB in a 2006 radio interview when he said that the incident raised eyebrows when he was being vetted to become an adviser to the British Treasury in the 1990s.
Reporting By Adrian Croft and Guy Faulconbridge