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City news, 28.12.2005 15:49

Russia's Putin shows off judo prowess

judo_putin President Vladimir Putin showed off his judo skills Saturday in nationwide television footage, giving a master class in his hometown.

Russian television stations showed Putin, barefoot and clad in white kimono, doing exercises with other students and then helping them practice various holds at the judo school that he attended in his college years in St. Petersburg.

Putin attended the lesson with Yasuhiro Yamashita, a legendary world and Olympic judo champion from Japan. Putin met Yamashita on a trip to Tokyo last month and invited him to visit Russia. On Friday night, Putin treated Yamashita to a dinner at a St. Petersburg restaurant.

Putin has earned a black belt in the sport and co-wrote a judo manual several years ago. "When I am on a judo mat, I feel at home," the 16-year veteran of the KGB said once.

Putin's accomplishments in judo and downhill skiing have helped his wide popularity among Russians who like having a physically fit, energetic leader - a sharp contrast to his feeble-looking, frequently ailing predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.

The 53-year-old Putin also has relished showing his prowess with all kind of vehicles.

Shortly before his first election in 2000, Putin flew as a second pilot in a fighter jet to inspect troops in Chechnya. He later boarded nuclear submarines, ran a snow-covered test course in a huge truck, drove a new locomotive and, most recently, co-piloted a bomber during a military exercise.

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