The pictures normally do most of the talking for Vladimir Putin’s action man alter ego. We’ve all seen samples from Putin’s repertoire of sporting poses: judo thwacking, tiger trapping, polar bear stunning are among his signature moves. This week’s GQ magazine puts a vocal track to the action with supermodel Naomi Campbell probing the Russian prime minister about his stunt man reputation. Vladislav Doronin’s other half is, it would seem, turning into something of a Walter Cronkite for the rogue states, famously having asked ‘rebel angel’ Hugo Chavez about the Spice Girls and bandied a blood diamond around with Liberian arch villain Charles Taylor. Readers may be disappointed to know that there is, if such a thing can be said, less ‘political meat‘ to this interview than that with Chavez. Here are a couple of excerpts:
You go for extreme sports like bareback riding, white-water rafting, motor racing, skiing, hunting. Is it a thrill, or just showing off? You must have had injuries.
Back in my student days, I broke a finger when I was mucking about during exercise, but I’ve been lucky recently.
In the summer you were photographed on a Harley-Davidson at a bikers’ festival in Ukraine. How were you received by the bikers, the Night Wolves?
Well, these are really cool guys, really tough guys. One of them was a really courageous person who travelled a few thousand kilometres on a two-wheeler bike. He’s a handicapped guy with only one leg – he lost it somewhere in Yugoslavia during the war. I’m not the tough guy, those guys are.
You obviously make a great impression on women. How do you feel aboutthe students who posed for you in the calendar? [Female students atMoscow State University in Russia produced rival calendars for Putin’s58th birthday. First,a group of journalism students in lingerie posedfor a calendar with suggestive captions, such as: “You put out forestfires, but I’m still burning.” Then another group hit back, posing inblack, with their mouths taped shut.]
I like the girls a lot, they’re beautiful. I like the calendar but it’snot the most important thing. As for the other one, well, in almost anycountry, probably in Russia in particular, it’s fashionable to criticisepeople in power. If you come out in support of someone like me, you’regoing to be accused of trying to ingratiate yourself. The girls in theerotic calendar were courageous and they were not scared. As studentjournalists, they couldn’t fail to understand what might have been saidto them after doing this. Nonetheless, they were not deterred and didthe calendar anyway. So, frankly, that’s what I liked the most.
You’ve been known to attend bare-knuckle fights. Ever been in one?
No,it’s not my sport; since I was 14, I’ve done judo. But the bare-knucklefight I attended was very impressive. These guys are tough. I watchedthe Russian, French and British teams and each and every one of theseathletes deserves great credit. There are even women who do it.
Not big, just strong women.