Putin, Medvedev go fishing in show of unity

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Russia's ruling tandem of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have put on a new show of unity ahead of elections by going fishing and taking a joint dive in the river.

The carefully choreographed footage of two leaders -- both potential candidates in March elections that will likely only feature one of the two men -- appeared aimed at removing suggestions of a brewing political rivalry.

The Kremlin published photographs on its website of the pair standing side-by-side with fishing rods in their hands and then both grinning broadly while out on a casual stroll.

State television then released images of the two men diving in green wetsuits in the murky waters of the Volga River in the southern region of Astrakhan.

A Kremlin statement said Putin and Medvedev "got to know the habitat of the river and took a few photographs using special photo equipment" during Tuesday's outing.

Medvedev was later shown steering a small river boat on his own -- a potent symbol clearly designed to dismiss speculation that former KGB agent Putin was the actual one in charge.

It later emerged that Putin and Medvedev were placed in separate boats. But footage of Putin steering his never made it onto state television or the Kremlin website.

Former spy Putin finished his two terms as president in 2008 and named Medvedev as his hand-picked successor while retaining a dominant role in Russian politics that soon saw him become prime minister.

Analysts immediately suggested that the 45-year-old Medvedev -- a lawyer by training who served as the little-known chairman of the state gas giant Gazprom -- was just a placeholder for Putin who would not run for a second term.

Medvedev has admitted to liking his job and recently noted that every president would like to retain his post.

But most observers agree that the final decision of which of the two will run next year will rest with Putin.

© 2011 AFP

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