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Putin swaps desk for wilderness

By REN QI | China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-10 09:08
Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen with a mushroom he picked during his holiday in the Siberian countryside in Russia on Monday. [ALEXEI DRUZHININ/KREMLIN/REUTERS]

Russians treated to images of leader enjoying rugged countryside for his 67th birthday

Vladimir Putin marked his 67th birthday this week with a hike in the Siberian wilderness-an annual treat for the outdoors-loving Russian president.

In photos and video footage released by the Kremlin, Putin is seen taking in the rugged countryside with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. In the images, Russians see Putin picking wild mushrooms near a spot overlooking the banks of the Yenisei River and the forested mountains of southern Siberia. The setting is the Tuva region near the border with Mongolia.

Putin is seen climbing over the hills with a large stick in hand, and cruising around in an off-road vehicle with some other top officials for a spell of rest and relaxation.

Russian television also broadcast parts of Putin's trip, showing the adventure-loving leader hiking to a cliff edge and then pausing to take in the view of the Yenisei River below.

During one pit stop, Shoigu uncovers a berry bush. "Plant it in the Moscow region. You can plant it at your dacha there," Putin tells his minister, referring to the country retreats enjoyed by many Russians.

At another resting place, the pair make a camp fire and eat while looking over the vast expanse and the Yenisei River.

They ascend to nearly 6,500 feet (1,981 meters), according to the TASS news agency, and Putin says: "High above the clouds-much higher than the clouds."

The video and photos of Putin's birthday hike have been reposted by many Russians on Vk, a popular social network in the country.

"Putin is a wise man. Being in nature is the best therapy for a stressful life as the leader of a great nation like Russia," a Russian man with the user name LVPN posted.

Alina Poskina, who works in a supermarket in Moscow, notes that Putin is keeping himself in good shape.

"Love to see him spending time in beautiful surroundings. He has time for nature and all its inhabitants. Never seen any other president connecting with nature's wilderness like him, ever," she posts.

The president's "macho jaunts" are renowned for displays of vigor, including his riding shirtless on horseback in 2009 and showing off his butterfly stroke in a frigid lake in 2017.

This year is no different for the interest shown by US and British media, such as CNN, The Week UK magazine and The Telegraph. It was noted that in 2019 the president "chose to keep his chest under his clothes on this occasion" in the "macho images".

Natalia Muravieva, director of Moscow's Academy of Communications and Information, said Putin knows how to cultivate his image on the domestic and international stages.

A strong image

Gregory Feifer, the director of the Institute of Current World Affairs at the David Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, shares this view. He adds that the Kremlin has been trying to build a strong image of Putin, while also being sensitive about possible negative portrayals in Western media.

Putin didn't always manage to have some private time for his birthday. When asked in an earlier interview about his most memorable birthday, Putin recalled his 61st birthday that took place in 2013 at the APEC meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

Putin said he was surprised at the sight of Chinese President Xi Jinping coming to present him with a birthday cake, before sharing a toast with vodka.

Xi also joined the Asia-Pacific leaders in singing "happy birthday" to Putin while the then-president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, strummed along on a guitar.

"I had never established such close relations or made such arrangements with any foreign colleague in the way I did with President Xi at that time," Putin said.

Putin called Xi a "reliable partner and good friend" in the interview.

"Perhaps President Xi is the only national leader who has celebrated my birthday with me," Putin said.

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