Russian leader Putin 'catches 21kg pike' on day off

MOSCOW (AFP) - President Vladimir Putin landed a pike weighing 21kg on a recent weekend trip to Siberia, the Kremlin said on Friday, in the latest leisure stunt by the Russian strongman.

The Kremlin said that Mr Putin was joined on the trip by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, in a clear bid to prove Russia's top two remain unified despite reports of growing strains.

State television showed Putin laughing in astonishment as he pulled the massive pike out of the water, with the fish then having the dubious honour of being kissed on its gills by the Kremlin chief.

"It was very interesting relaxation. Putin and Medvedev socialised very warmly, talked and went swimming," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state ITAR-TASS news agency.

Several pictures published by the Kremlin also showed Mr Putin fishing in his now traditional summer pose of naked torso and dark sunglasses.

The television pictures did not show Mr Medvedev doing any fishing but instead standing on the bow of a motorboat taking pictures with a telephoto lens.

Spokesman Peskov said the "very beautiful" pictures taken by Mr Medvedev had now been put on the Kremlin website.

The spokesman added that the trip had taken place in the remote Tuva region in southern Siberia, which lies on the border with Mongolia.

Tuva is the home region of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, one of Mr Putin's closest allies and friends who was also present.

Media coverage of Mr Putin's leisure activities is carefully managed by the Kremlin to cultivate his image as a tough nature-loving action man, which his minders believe still appeals to many Russians.

Earlier this month, Mr Putin dived in a small submersible to inspect a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.