Up a tree in camouflage green, bare-chested on horseback and one can only guess at his state of undress as he carves his way through wild water — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has once again starred in a series of macho poses, this time on holiday in Siberia.
While many international counterparts will be hoping to escape the long lenses of the paparazzi at their holiday villas, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown tries hard to look at ease in front of the cameras while doing community service in his Scottish constituency, Putin has positively sought out the photographers and invited them to reinforce his muscleman image.
The latest snaps come after the judo black belt spent part of last weekend in a submarine exploring the bottom of Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake, where he descended 1,400m below the surface to inspect potentially valuable gas crystals.
He resurfaced after the four-hour dive to extol the virtue of Russian submersible technology and question whether any other country could match it.
“I haven’t seen anything like that in my whole life. This is a very special feeling,” Putin told reporters on emerging from the deep-sea craft looking pale and a bit dizzy.
In 2007, while president, he featured in magazines across the world stripped to the waist while on a fishing trip in the Yenisei River and since stepping down from the Kremlin last year to become prime minister, the 56-year-old former KGB spy has kept himself in the public eye and continued to cultivate his manly image.
He has flown in a fighter aircraft and shot a Siberian tiger in the wild, and polls show it has won him many admirers, especially among Russian women.
In past years the Russian press has reported that women have praised Putin’s “vigorous torso” and said they were screaming with delight and showering him with compliments.
Russian gay chat rooms and blogs have also been intrigued by the photos over the years, with some suggesting his bare-chested posturing was a plea for more tolerance of homosexuality in Russia — where gays and lesbians are for the most part forced to remain closeted.
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