Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Saturday dived to the bottom of Lake Baikal in Siberia aboard a mini-submarine, the latest stunt by the increasingly multi-tasking Russian strongman.
State television pictures showed Putin donning blue overalls and clambering aboard the Mir-1 submarine before being hoisted into the water to begin his journey to the bottom of the deepest lake in the world.
“The dive is going perfectly, there is a perfect view with the lights,” Putin told Russian journalists from the depths of the lake on a specially organised radio link-up, the Interfax news agency reported.
However he expressed some surprise about how murky the water is in the lake, which contains around a fifth of the world’s freshwater reserves.
“The water of course is clean from an ecological point of view but in fact it’s a plankton soup, or so I called it,” he said.
The Mir-1 is the same mini-submarine that in 2008 set a world record for the deepest dive in a lake by diving to 1,680 metres (5,512 feet). Russian news agencies said Putin had dived to a depth of around 1,400 metres (4,600 feet).
Interfax said the Mir-1 reached the bottom of the lake at 0500 GMT, around an hour after the start of the dive. Judo-mad Putin, 56, prides himself on keeping a peak physical condition and has raised eyebrows with a series of highly mediatized stunts over the last years.
Just the day earlier, he clipped a radio transmitter onto a beluga whale named Dasha in Russia’s Far East. Famous official pictures taken during his 2000-2008 presidency showed him fishing with a muscular naked torso that would impress any fitness fanatic while last year he fired a tranquilising dart at a tiger in the Far East.
But imagemakers have clearly been at pains to promote a softer side and the last months have seen him in unexpected situations ranging from singing in a classroom to denouncing the hunting of baby seals.