PRESIDENT Putin drives an all-terrain vehicle in a taiga forest in Siberia.—AP
PRESIDENT Putin drives an all-terrain vehicle in a taiga forest in Siberia.—AP

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a holiday in Siberia with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, piloted an all-terrain vehicle through thick woodland and traversed a swaying rope bridge, Kremlin footage showed.

Putin routinely appears on state television participating in various outdoor pursuits to project the image of a healthy and robust leader capable of leading the country for many years to come.

His bare-chested exploits have conjured for many Russians an image of Putin, 68, as an in-shape role model.

Video released by the Kremlin from inside an all-terrain vehicle showed the president at the wheel of a vehicle that pulled branches from overhanging trees as it barrelled over snow-laden tracks through dense forests of birch.

The two men were seen trudging through knee-deep snow and inspecting wooden ruins in a barren forest before taking careful steps across a rope bridge over a frozen river.

Putin, who loves to cultivate a virile man-of-action image, was shown in 2017 on holiday with Shoigu spear-fishing in a camouflage wetsuit, piloting a powerboat and catching some rays.

Last year he bestowed a 65th birthday honour on Shoigu, his loyal ally in the Syria conflict and companion on wilderness trips.

Putin sent Shoigu birthday greetings and signed a decree awarding him one of Russia’s highest decorations, the “For Merit to the Fatherland” medal in the first degree.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2021

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