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Russia's macho man: Putin shows muscle... again

Siberian rapids replace tigers for this year's holiday stunt, writes Shaun Walker

Wednesday 05 August 2009 00:00 BST

It's August in Russia, and that can only mean one thing – it's time for the Russian public to be treated to another round of Vladimir Putin's holiday photos. This year, Mr Putin, formerly president and now Prime Minister, was snapped doing a spot of topless horse-riding and breaking up sticks of wood with his bare hands during a Siberian mini-break.

The images will play well with Russians, who respect Mr Putin for his hard-man image, as cultivated by PR stunts showcasing his macho abilities, including his judo moves and tiger-shooting skills.

Mr Putin's "holiday" this year was in fact just a one-day stopover in the remote region of Tuva, in between working visits to different Siberian towns. Already this week he has taken a submarine trip to the bottom of the deepest lake on the planet.

During his short visit to Tuva, a remote region with its own language, Mr Putin also found time to go white-water rafting. As the state controlled Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported, "The river was fast-flowing and full of rapids, but this didn't scare Vladimir Putin one little bit".

According to the Russian press, Mr Putin "by chance" came upon an elderly Tuvan shepherd during the rafting and stopped to have a chat. The shepherd returned with a horse for the Prime Minister, who set off to drink tea with the shepherd's family, and at the end of the meeting gave the shepherd a hunting knife as a present and gave the shepherd's son the watch from his own wrist. Luckily, photographers were on hand to capture the touching moment. There is no doubt that Mr Putin enjoys the chance to get his kit off for the cameras; he was pictured in a similar series of topless holiday photographs two summers ago.

These days, hardly a month goes by without Mr Putin pulling such a stunt. But while these latest photographs were clearly once again designed to boost the Prime Minister's macho image, the cynical observer might wonder if the poses that he strikes aren't rather more Brokeback Mountain than Jason Bourne.

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