Vladimir Putin finds his thrill on 'Blueberry Hill'

So far in 2010, he's fired a crossbow at a whale from a speedboat, driven across Siberia in a Lada, and flown a plane over a burning forest to douse the flames with water. This weekend, it was time for Vladimir Putin to reveal a more artistic side, taking to the stage at a charity auction to play the piano and sing a rendition – in English – of Louis Armstrong's "Blueberry Hill".

Russia's action-man Prime Minister first played the melody gingerly at the piano, before taking to the stage to sing in heavily accented English, with a full backing band. The karaoke turn at a charity auction in St Petersburg was attended by a host of international film stars, including Kevin Costner, Gérard Depardieu and Sharon Stone, who clapped and sang along in the audience.

Mr Putin, dressed in a dark suit with no tie, appeared somewhat awkward at first, but soon got into his stride, gesturing to the audience while singing the line "For you were my thrill", and tapping his feet to the music. His accent meant that his rendition sounded more like "Blyubirry Kheel", but he hit all the notes.

His ego was doubtless given a boost by the standing ovation from the hall when he finished the number. According to Russia Today, a Kremlin-funded television station, Mr Putin returned to the piano later in the evening to sing "Where the homeland starts", a former KGB favourite that he claims to have sung in private with Anna Chapman and the other Russian spies deported from the US earlier this year. It was also reported that after the concert finished, Mr Putin took Sharon Stone by the arm and they sang a song about Russian cosmonauts together.

Russia Today claimed that Mr Putin was deeply reluctant to take the stage, and the whole episode was entirely impromptu. Apparently, Mr Putin was approached by a hostess and asked to sing, but refused. "However, after seeing the pictures of ill children shown to the audience on the big screen, he took to the stage," the channel reported.

But was more likely to be a well-rehearsed publicity move, in line with much of the Prime Minister's activity, meant to keep him in the public eye and portray him as a talented superman for the domestic audience.

Mr Putin's stunts are usually more masculine – he has released a DVD of judo tips, shot a tiger with a tranquilliser dart and posed for a bare-chested photo-shoot on a horse.

But from time to time, he shows a more creative side. At a charity auction last year, a painting that he had "dashed off" in a single day fetched £750,000.

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