Putin 'discovers Greek urns' on scuba dive
Russia's hard-man Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pulled on a wetsuit Wednesday and went scuba diving at the site of a Greek ruin in the latest populist stunt preceding next year's elections.
Russians news agencies said Putin -- a novice only attempting his third scuba dive -- had managed to discover two ancient jars dating back to the sixth century during his expedition in the southern Russian coast near Ukraine.
The reports said Putin had only descended two metres (6.6 feet) and was simply lucky to have discover the objects in full presence of the media because the water was so clear.
"The head of the expedition said they are from the sixth century AD," Interfax quoted Putin as saying. This would date them to the time of the early Byzantine era.
"When the ships were being loaded at the port, the jars would often break and then they would get tossed overboard," Russia's de-facto leader explained.
Putin's expedition took him to the Krasnodar region's Taman Peninsula -- home to the Phanagoria colony founded by the Greeks some 2,500 years ago and invaded by the ancient Rus in the 10th century.
Former Soviet intelligence officer Putin rose to the presidency in 2000 on the back of a carefully-cultivated image that mixed nationalist rhetoric with an action man image that set him apart from other Russian leaders.
He has flown a fighter jet into Chechnya and descended to the bottom of Lake Baikal in a special deep-sea vessel. Russian media have published photos of Putin wearing his judo black belt and stripped to his waste on a hunting trip.
Putin's adventures at times contrast with the apparently more sedate lifestyle of President Dmitry Medvedev who has yet to commit himself to a second term amid speculation Putin himself may run.
The president has also encountered the occasional media mishap.
Medvedev this summer nearly ran his SUV vehicle into a cheering crowd of supporters after forgetting to put the car into park and has also become the hit of a viral video in which he was shown dancing at a friend's party.
Putin and Medvedev have vowed not to run against each other and decide which of them will stand for the presidency soon.
© 2011 AFP