Emotional Putin flees cameras after mentor's funeral

SAINT PETERSBURG (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin attempted to flee the cameras on Friday after attending the funeral of his childhood mentor and judo trainer, Mr Anatoly Rakhlin, in an unusual show of emotion.

Russian television showed Mr Putin emerging from viewing his teacher's body lying in state in his native city of Saint Petersburg and waving away his black limousine.

He then told members of his vast entourage that he wanted to walk ahead alone, before heading alone down a long street and crossing a road running along the River Neva.

In footage filmed by RT channel, it is clear that his security detail followed close behind, while local residents said on Internet forums that the street had been closed off for Mr Putin.

So tightly controlled is Mr Putin's every public appearance that the footage of him crossing a road on foot with traffic and pedestrians close by appeared unusual.

Mr Rakhlin, who died at 75, began training Mr Putin in 1964, when he was aged 11 or 12, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. Mr Putin has remained close with his first sparring partners in the group, including billionaire tycoon Arkady Rotenberg.

A black-belt in judo, Mr Putin is often depicted in judo uniform and even co-authored a book called "Let's learn judo with Vladimir Putin" in 2002.

In a message of condolences, Mr Putin called Mr Rakhlin a "caring mentor" both in sport and in life.

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