Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin praised the female students who posed for an “erotic” calendar to honor his 58th birthday, telling model Naomi Campbell that they were “courageous,” British GQ magazine reported.
“As student journalists, they couldn’t fail to understand what might have been said to them after doing this,” Putin said in an interview posted on GQ’s website. “Nonetheless, they were not deterred and did the calendar anyway. So, frankly, that’s what I liked the most.”
Twelve Moscow State University journalism students posed in lingerie to mark Putin’s Oct. 7 birthday with a calendar that was sold at Groupe Auchan SA supermarkets in Moscow for 259 rubles ($8.74) apiece. Each month’s model had her own message for Putin, including “You put out the forest fires, but I’m still burning,” and “You only get better with the years.”
“Some girls in the journalism department decided a calendar would be a great way to show our support of Putin’s policies,” Ksenia Seleznyova, an 18-year-old second-year student, said in an interview when the calendar was released.
Seleznyova is pictured topless as the calendar’s Miss December and included her mobile phone number for Putin to call if he wants a “personal” birthday greeting. “If Putin actually calls me, I’ll wish him happy birthday with all my heart,” she said at the time.
Campbell, who has lived in Russia for two years with billionaire partner Vladislav Doronin, interviewed Putin last November at the world’s first tiger summit in St. Petersburg he helped organize. The supermodel asked Putin, who stepped down as Russian president in 2008, about how he managed to stay in good physical shape and whether his attraction to extreme sports like bareback riding, motor racing and hunting was just showing off.
Putin, 58, described as an “alpha dog” in U.S. embassy cables posted by WikiLeaks.org, is often shown on state television as an action man in close proximity to animals including whales, tigers and bears.
He has also been shown flying in a fighter jet and co-piloting a firefighting plane. Last August, Putin hit the road in a 2,000-kilometer (1,250-mile) race in the Far East of Russia in a yellow Lada Kalina sedan believed to be a publicity stunt ahead of next year’s presidential elections.
Putin ceded the presidency in 2008 to his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, as he was barred by the constitution from seeking a third consecutive term. He is eligible to run for Russia’s highest office again in 2012, though he has been cagey when asked if he’ll seek the post again.
Putin told Campbell that he goes to the gym and swims daily. Yet he said was “not the tough guy” compared with the bikers he met last summer at a festival in Ukraine.
He also said a bare-knuckle fight he attended was “very impressive,” though it wasn’t his sport.
“These guys are tough,” Putin said. “I watched the Russian, French and British teams and each and every one of these athletes deserves great credit.” Putin has done judo since he was 14 years old.
Of his involvement in the tiger initiative, Putin said he was impressed to see a television program with Russian and U.S. activists in the Far East engaged in tiger preservation.
“I decided support needed to be given to these activists, so I pulled together a program, sponsored by extra funds,” Putin said, according to a transcript of the interview. “The total allocation was $5 million and then we stared expanding the program which now includes black bears, white bears and other species.”
Putin was asked in his annual call-in show in December 2009 whether he is happier in the presence of animals than his ministers.
“I believe the Prussian King Frederick the Great once said: ‘The better I know people, the more I like dogs,’” Putin answered. “I simply love all animals and use my current position to help solve some especially acute problems.”