Putin cultivates strongman persona with holiday adventures

VIDEO: REUTERS
Russian President Vladimir Putin driving a motor boat at the cascade of mountain lakes during his vacation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin driving a motor boat at the cascade of mountain lakes during his vacation.PHOTO: EPA

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who loves to cultivate a virile man-of-action image, was shown on Russian TV Saturday (Aug 5) spear-fishing in a camouflage wetsuit, piloting a powerboat and catching some rays while on a Siberian holiday.

Putin's affinity for the tough guy pose has been documented with shots of him bare-chested on horseback, diving in a submarine in Lake Baikal - the world's deepest - and flipping a Judo opponent.

These latest images, provided by the Kremlin, captured his two-day stay in the remote Tuva area of southern Siberia.

Putin "fished in a waterfall near a mountain lake, indulged in underwater fishing, sunbathed, went rafting in mountain rivers, piloted... motor boats, went hiking and four-wheeler riding in the mountains," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

The images broadcast on public television, which insisted on "the physical fitness of the president", show Putin catching a pike in a camouflage wetsuit or sunning his bare torso with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is originally from the region.

His trip comes days after Putin said the US would have to cut 755 diplomatic staff in Russia and warned of a prolonged gridlock in its ties after the US Congress backed new sanctions against the Kremlin.

Putin's previous made-for-TV exploits, however, have not been without controversy. During a 2011 dive in the Black Sea he allegedly discovered two 15th century amphoras, but the find was mocked in independent media because the vessels were suspiciously without algae or other sea life.

Peskov admitted several months later that the scene had been staged.