Moldovan dog bites man - but this time, a president

Moldova's President Sandu and her dog greet Austria's President Van der Bellen and Slovenia's President Pirc Musar in Chisinau

CHISINAU (Reuters) -Moldovan President Maia Sandu's dog overturned protocol on Thursday by biting visiting Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen on the hand, although Austria's leader was forgiving and later gave the excitable pup a toy.

The incident, Moldovan media reported, occurred when the two leaders were strolling in the courtyard of the Moldovan presidential residence and Van der Bellen tried to pet the dog, a rescue named Codrut, or small forest.

Sandu apologised in English and explained that the dog had become frightened by large numbers of people nearby. Van Der Bellen appeared with his hand bandaged at his next meeting, with the speaker of Moldova's parliament.

In a video posted to Instagram on Friday, Van der Bellen sympathised with the first pup.

"Everyone who knows me knows that I'm a big dog lover and can understand his excitement," he wrote, adding his meeting with Sandu and other top officials had been "very good".

Van der Bellen added that he had gifted the dog a small toy on the last day of his visit.

The talks in Chisinau, attended by Van Der Bellen and the president of Slovenia, focused on the bid by Moldova, which lies between Ukraine and Romania, to join the European Union.

Sandu, who took in the dog after it was hit by a car, posted pictures on social media with her pet and the two presidents.

(Reporting by Alexander Tanas; Additional reporting by Dan Peleschuk; Editing by Ron Popeski, Sandra Maler and Toby Chopra)