The Finnish public broadcaster Yle has released clips of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Finland back in the early 90s.
Yle writes that the video is “far from the macho, dictatorial image Putin has since created”.
– This is pre-Rich Putin: Putin in a weird tracksuit, with a bad haircut, doing everyday dad things, says Luke Harding, Russia expert and former Moscow correspondent for the British newspaper The Guardian, to Yle.
The video is said to have been sent to Yle from an anonymous source. It is said to have been filmed on May 1, which is a typical day to mark the start of spring and summer in Europe – and that is precisely what the gang in the video seem to be celebrating.
Outside at the villa on the island of Torsö in Raseborg, the group that has gathered plays both darts and table tennis, and goes fishing.
The then around 40-year-old Putin, who at the time was a KGB agent, can be seen in a colourful, typical 90s tracksuit. The weld is also significantly longer, and the radiance more cheerful and humble than we are used to seeing the Russian president.
Putin is known for having control over what is photographed of him, carefully filtering out images and videos that do not support his authoritarian image.
– Will give picture of a tsar
Over the past few years, pictures have emerged of him shirtless on horseback or on a fishing trip, in a judo match, and of him taking ice baths without preferring a mine.
But in Finland, he didn’t always seem to know that he was being filmed during the visit.
– It is a fantastic, fascinating, original, compelling recording, says Harding.
At a ping-pong table, Putin plays on a team with Anatoly Sobchak, who was then mayor of St Petersburg. He has taken off his upper body in the fight against his two bodyguards.
Putin had by this time become an adviser to Sobchak.
– Really unusual
Later, the gang goes out on a fishing trip. Here, Putin is said to have been aware that he was being filmed, and kept his back to the camera, writes The Guardian.
– One of the first things they teach you at spy school is to avoid being photographed. “Spies all over the world are pretty reticent, but especially the KGB, so this is really, really unusual,” Harding told Yle.
Mysterious details attract attention
Putin’s wife at the time, Lyudmila Aleksandrovna Ocheretnaya, can be seen devouring the catch after the fishing trip – a pike. Their two daughters, Maria and Katerina, also appear in the video.
Putin enlisted in the Russian intelligence service as a 23-year-old, and spent, among other things, five years in Dresden in what was then East Germany.
In 1991 he left the KGB, but several of his friends from this period are still among his closest advisers.