Moscow: The widely publicised incident in
which Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pulled up ancient
Greek jug fragments from the seabed on a diving expedition was
staged, his chief spokesman said.
The August dive in the Kerch Strait that connects the
Black and Azov seas was reported extensively in Russian and
Putin is noted for his habit of appearing in vigorous and
adventurous settings, including fishing while stripped to the
waist and riding with leather-clad motorcyclists.
In video footage of the dive, Putin holds two fragments
of what are said to be 6th century BC Greek jugs and says "the
boys and I found them" in about six feet of clear water.
But his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview
shown Tuesday on the Dozhd TV channel that the jugs had been
found earlier by archaeologists and placed there for Putin.
"Look, Putin didn`t find down there jugs that had lain
there for many thousands of years. It`s obvious," Peskov said
in response to questions from the interviewers.
"Of course, they were found in the course of an
expedition several weeks or days earlier. Of course, they were
left there or placed there. It`s completely normal. There`s no
reason to gloat about this and everything else," he said.
Peskov`s comments were an unusually candid glimpse into
the cultivation of Putin`s image as a tough man of action.
Previous image-boosting appearances, which have shown
Putin hunting, riding horseback and admiring a tranquilized
polar bear, have contributed to his popularity, but have also
prompted bitter comments on blogs and social media.
Peskov`s rare interview with a television station that
has been critical of the government could reflect authorities`
concerns about a negative attitude to Putin`s re-election bid
among the nation`s intellectuals and middle class.
Putin, who was president in 2000-2008, is almost certain
to return to the Kremlin in next March`s election. He and
President Dmitry Medvedev announced last month they had agreed
that Putin would run for the presidency and Medvedev would be
named prime minister.