Putin's 'model' photographer sparks Internet frenzy
Russia's government Friday sought to douse a frenzy of Internet comment after it hired an attractive former model and "Miss Moscow" finalist as personal photographer to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The government confirmed the hiring of Yana Lapikova to join the pool of Putin's official photographers as an intern but insisted she had been chosen on the grounds of her personal qualities alone.
Prominent Russian blogger drugoi posted scantily-clad photographs of the sultry brunette's modelling past on his LiveJournal site, provoking a flurry of comments querying the real reason why she was hired.
By apparent coincidence, the administration of President Dmitry Medvedev has also just hired a female photographer for the first time, Ekaterina Shtukina from the national daily Izvestia.
"Yes, I am working as an intern in the prime ministerial pool," Lapikova told the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily. "Working as a photographer is the dream of my life."
"It's true I took part in Miss Moscow. Clearly this was a mistake that I'm paying for now.
"It was not worth it. Working as a photographer is more important than taking part in a competition."
Clearly irritated by the speculation, the government responded to questions about Lapikova's apparent lack of longstanding professional experience by saying it was not easy finding photographers for the official pool.
"We do not hire photographers according to gender. She is genuinely a good photographer, her past as a model does not concern us. In any case, it is not a crime," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the RIA Novosti news agency.
He explained that it was not easy for the government to hire photographers as the pay for the job was considerably less than that offered in international photo agencies.
"Working as a personal photographer is a kind of torture which is not payed like in the international agencies but far lower".
He said the two personal photographers currently employed by the government -- Alexei Druzhinin and Alexei Nikolsky -- were overwhelmed with work as they had to attend events not only with Putin but also deputy prime ministers.
"We have been thinking a long time about taking on a photographer but the pay did not suit," he said.
© 2011 AFP