'Action man' Putin challenges ice hockey ex-champions at Sochi

4th January 2014, Comments 0 comments

A day after a run on the Sochi ski slopes, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday roped in his Belarussian counterpart for a friendly match against former ice hockey champions at the host city of February's Winter Olympics.

The two presidents' team won the game against stars including Soviet-era champion Alexander Yakushev, as Putin chalked up yet another action stunt to his name.

Putin has burnished a hardman image by ensuring that his leisure activities such as fishing and horse-riding bare-chested, aircraft piloting and hang-gliding do not go unnoticed by the media.

His spokesman told official news agency Itar-Tass that Putin had invited Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko to join in Saturday's friendly.

"Knowing that a match with hockey stars was planned at Sochi and knowing of the passion of Alexander Lukashenko for the sport, Putin invited him to Sochi," said Dmitry Peskov.

Both presidents wore red, with Putin in a number 11 jersey and Lukashenko in number 1. Their team was beefed up by former star Pavel Bure as well as Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Putin is on a visit lasting several days to Sochi, which will host the 7-23 February Winter Olympics.

His visit came after Russia saw one of its deadliest attacks with suicide bombings on December 29 and 30 in the southern city of Volgograd, about 700 kilometres (400 miles) from Sochi.

Putin has staked his image and prestige on a successful and safe Olympics, and Moscow has poured more than $50 billion into the event and has imposed tight security in and around Sochi and in nearby cities.

© 2014 AFP

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