Putin’s weirdest moments from martial arts skills to horse riding topless

He might have dragged his country into a disastrous invasion of Ukraine, but Vladimir Putin wasn’t always the global pariah he is now.

As photographs from his earlier time as leader show, the 71-year-old former KGB agent once loved nothing more than showing off his pecs or judo throwing a terrified opponent.

The divorced father-of-two seems to have experienced his mid-life crisis for many decades, taking great pleasure in trying to show off a macho persona.

Whether it’s tagging polar bears and tigers, or riding topless in the Russian wilderness, Putin has carefully nurtured a tough guy image at home and abroad.

As rumours swirl his health has suffered in recent years – and in recent days, after an alleged heart attack, which the Kremlin strongly denies – Putin might enjoy looking back at his more carefree days when he used to indulge in the odd ice hockey game or take time to pose hugging a koala.

Here’s a rundown of some of Putin’s most bizarre photocall moments:

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Topless horse riding in Siberia

Perhaps the Russian leader’s most famous photocall, his moonshot at masculinity. During a trip to the far east of Russia in 2003 the then Prime Minister stopped off near the town of Kyzyl in Southern Sibreria.

As part of his holiday shenanigans, Vladimir decided to don a pair of sunglasses and a crucifix and ride topless through the local landscape.

He also engaged in some wild swimming and was photographed doing some mushroom picking as he unwound in the wilderness.

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President, Prime Minister and puck pusher

In 2016, Putin was President again, and took part in an ice hockey game perhaps celebrating still keeping all democratic opponents to his power in the cold.

A sweaty looking Putin posed with an oversized trophy next to two women also holding a large trophy and dressed in traditional costume.

The game featured Russian stars from the American NHL league and a local governor in Sochi, Russia. Putin’s side won 11 points to five.

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Putin’s g’day mate moement with a marsupial

Nothing says I’m a fearsome leader like smiling holding a koala, and that’s what everyone’s favourite Russian dictator was doing in Brisbane, Australia, in 2014.

Polar bear Putin shows his cold roar side

Perhaps wanting to show that he is over the Cold War, Putin made a peaceful gesture towards an apex arctic predator when he was photographed helping scientists measure one of the enormous beasts in 2010.

Quite why they needed his help is anyone’s guess, but Putin has always liked to think he is an apex predator when it comes to Russian politics.

Of course, everything now has been a lot more serious since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

After being stunned by the incredible resistance and bravery of Ukrainian fighters, the Russians have been bogged down in a brutal war that is thought to have claimed around 150,000 to 190,000 soldiers either killed or permanently wounded, according to MoD figures.

It all seems a long way away from the G20 summit in Australia man-handling marsupials and riding half-naked in Siberia.

Now the President, and former Prime Minister, of the Russian Federation takes trips to North Korea or Kazakhstan.

The Kremlin has strongly denied Putin has taken ill in recent days. Rumours began circulating that the Russian leader had suffered a suspected “cardiac arrest” in Moscow on Sunday.

Russian state officials have branded the reports of a mysterious illness and the use of body doubles as an “absurd hoax”.

The focus of the speculation is the claimed Kremlin insider Telegram Channel ‘General SVR’ which frequently claims Putin is battling terminal cancer.

Mr Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson has denied the rumours, saying: “Everything is fine with him, this is absolutely another fake [story].”

In the war in Ukraine a Russian airstrike in the southern region of Kherson has injured two people, according to local authorities.

An airstrike damaged the roof of a fire station while shelling struck a hospital.

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