Sun, Oct 22, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Putin makes another gaffe

GUARDIAN NEWS SERVICE , MOSCOW

Russian President Vladimir Putin's international image has been tainted after it emerged he had let slip another of his infamous remarks -- this time praising the president of Israel for alleged sex offences.

"He turned out to be a strong man, raped 10 women," the Russian president was quoted by Russian media as saying at a meeting in Moscow with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "I never would have expected it of him. He has surprised us all, we all envy him!"

Israeli police announced last Sunday that Israeli President Moshe Katsav could be charged with the rape and sexual harassment of several women.

Putin, a former KGB spy, is well known for his crude off-the-cuff quips. On Wednesday he and Olmert met reporters before talks on Iran and bilateral relations.

"Say hi to your president -- he really surprised us," Putin was heard saying to Olmert as the Kremlin press conference ended.

That was the only comment that reached most journalists' ears, but Andrei Kolesnikov, a Kremlin pool veteran, heard the rest.

"It was one of those moments when you couldn't believe your ears," he said.

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