It’s August in Russia, and that can only mean one thing – it’s time for the Russian public to be treated to another round of Vladimir Putin’s holiday photos. This year, Mr Putin, formerly president and now Prime Minister, was snapped doing a spot of topless horse-riding and breaking up sticks of wood with his bare hands during a Siberian mini-break.
The images will play well with Russians, who respect Mr Putin for his hard-man image, as cultivated by PR stunts showcasing his macho abilities. During his short visit to Tuva, a remote region with its own language, Mr Putin also found time to go white-water rafting. As the state controlled Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported, “The river was fast-flowing and full of rapids, but this didn’t scare Vladimir Putin one little bit”.
These days, hardly a month goes by without Mr Putin pulling such a stunt. But while these latest photographs were clearly once again designed to boost the Prime Minister’s macho image, the cynical observer might wonder if the poses that he strikes aren’t rather more Brokeback Mountain than Jason Bourne.