The Finnish newspaper Yle published a video that was filmed during Vladimir Putin's trip to Finland in the early 1990s together with the then mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak. At that time, he was only the chairman of the external relations committee of the mayor's office.
The publication notes that in this footage, Putin is very far from the image of a macho and dictator that he has created for himself since that time.
According to Yle's sources, the video was filmed on the eve of the May Day holidays on the island of Torse in Raseborg, about 100 km west of Helsinki. Sobchak and Putin then settled
in a corporate villa owned by Thomesto companies that had business ties to Russia.
During a game of table tennis, Putin assists Anatoly Sobchak, and the rivals of this political duo are Sobchak's bodyguards. The sparring partners of the St. Petersburg bosses understand their role and give them the opportunity to win every time.
During the match, Putin demonstrates a typical manner, scratching his neck several times with his left hand. The future president does not seem to suspect that he is being removed.
Dressed in a sleeveless T-shirt, blue Adidas sweatpants and with an unkempt hairstyle, Putin looks gloomy and nondescript. But during the game, he sometimes relaxes and even allows himself to laugh.
"The most striking thing is that he is smiling. He looks like a human being, not the ghoul he has become," Luke Harding, an expert on Russia and a former Moscow correspondent for the British newspaper The Guardian, commented on the video fragments to the publication.
When Putin notices a camera pointed at him, out of espionage habit, he hides his face and lowers his gaze.
"One of the things they learn in their first lessons at spy school is to avoid cameras. Spies all over the world are quite laconic, but especially in the KGB," Harding said.
Putin, who is known for carefully concealing his private life, only posts videos that bolster his own credibility.
Since then, having come to the pinnacle of power in the Russian Federation, the master of the Kremlin has constantly tried to improve his image with the help of unlimited resources at his disposal.
Yle did not disclose the source of the video, as Putin's reaction to the revelations about his personal life could be unpredictable.
Earlier, the expert explained that the image of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a masculine macho man was built over the years to meet the needs of Russians, who, after the turbulent 90s, longed for the strong hand of the leader.