Putin scores as his team wins game of ice hockey in Red Square in least surprising sporting result of 2018

Russian president on scoresheet during annual Christmas exhibition match in Moscow

Tom Barnes@thomas_barnes
Sunday 30 December 2018 14:57
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Vladimir Putin plays ice hockey in Red Square to see out 2018

Vladimir Putin has donned his skates on to take part in a traditional festive game of ice hockey in Moscow’s Red Square.

The Russian president was unsurprisingly on the scoresheet as his side, featuring his defence minister Sergei Shoigu and several former NHL stars, won 14-10 during an annual exhibition match on Saturday.

Video footage showed Mr Putin warming up by taking practice shots against a goaltender, before being teed up to score by a teammate during the game itself.

The event, which involved a mixture of senior Moscow political figures and retired Russian hockey stars, has become a regular event in recent years staged in the week before Orthodox Christmas on 7 January.

“It’s a good kind of entertainment,” Mr Putin told state-owned news channel Russia 24: “I think this is a well-justified reason [to play hockey] ahead of the new year.”

Mr Putin had initially told press he hoped he would be joined on the ice by Belarus’s authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, with whom he had held talks in the Russian capital earlier that day.

“[Mr Lukashenko] should be home in Minsk to solve lots of issues, routine issues. There are always loads of them before the new year,” he later told state-controlled news agency Tass.

“However, we struck a deal that we would play together and go skiing once we met.“

Mr Putin typically makes time once a year to play ice hockey in public. It is Russia's second most popular sport after football.

The 66-year-old president has regularly displayed his prowess in other disciplines during his time in power.

Mr Putin holds a black belt in judo and his martial arts credentials are often lauded in Russian state media, with videos widely circulated of him tossing other skilled judokas to the mat with apparent ease.

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In 2009, he was famously photographed shirtless in the Siberian wilderness, taking part in a number of outdoor pursuits such as horse riding, hunting, lake swimming and fishing.

Three years later, Mr Putin donned a white jump suit to take a flight in a hang glider, leading a group of endangered cranes on their winter migration route.

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