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Russia’s action man premier pens ode to whale watching

Russia’s strongman prime minister, who recently returned from a visit to the Pacific, wrote an ode to whale watching, extolling encounters with wildlife but complaining of the whale’s foul breath.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave a breathless account of a trip he took this summer chasing a rare grey whale in the Russian Pacific Ocean, in a column for a monthly magazine.

“This work was probably my most interesting assignment with fauna, so to speak,” Putin wrote in the column for Russian Pioneer magazine, a copy of which was acquired by AFP on Wednesday.

“And it does not compare with any diplomatic protocol.”

Putin was shown on television in August firing a crossbow at the whale to obtain a skin sample and tossing in an inflatable raft amid high seas off the remote Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East.

In the column he confessed that he feared capsizing amid three-metre (ten-foot) high waves, but enjoyed taking risks.

“I decide what I do and how and when, and the people who answer for security think about how to ensure it,” Putin said. “A person needs new sensations, maybe that is the most important thing.”

Putin spent the summer in macho encounters with animals, also watching a brown bear at close quarters. The camera-friendly stunts prompted speculation that he plans to stand for a third presidental term in 2012.

Putin wrote that he had “great respect” for scientists, calling them “decent people … who are doing something big and serious and don’t beg for anything for themselves.”

He also resorted to toilet humour, joking that the whale’s breath smelled so foul that “we looked at each other in the boat and wondered, did someone have an accident?”

The column was Putin’s second venture into journalism. Last year, he wrote a column for Russian Pioneer about how to fire people. It is unclear whether he has a ghost writer.

The magazine’s founding editor is the Kremlin correspondent for Kommersant business daily, Andrei Kolesnikov.