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Russia leaders enjoy night out

MOSCOW, Aug 13 – President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, rarely seen in public together, have shared a typically male night out in the latest display of machismo from Russia’s leaders.

The pair, both holidaying in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, cheered on Russia in a friendly football clash with Argentina over drinks and swaggered along the resort’s embankment to the astonishment of locals.

Aides have gone to great lengths to burnish the image of Russia’s ruling duo, dismissing any reports of possible disagreements between Medvedev and Putin as attempts to drive a wedge between them.

The sight of the two casually dressed leaders taking a leisurely walk late Wednesday night was so unusual some passers-by thought they were impersonators. One man wondered whether they were the "live" president and prime minister.

"Alive, so far alive," Medvedev, dressed in a black sports jacket and T-shirt, said to the non-stop camera clicks.

A female onlooker said the two men should visit the palm-lined city more often. "Come to us!" she cried out, to which Putin replied: "Thank you."

The two men also stepped into a cafe to watch the football match between Russia and Argentina, rooting for the national team in the company of mostly young locals.

Wearing a blue shirt and jeans, Putin was shown sipping beer and munching on pistachios, while Medvedev, who had just hours earlier called on officials to battle Russia’s mind-boggling alcoholism rates, had tea.

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Russia’s pro-government newspaper Izvestia said the cafe was the resort town’s fanciest night club built in the shape of an oil-drilling platform and where an entrance fee for men is 1,000 rubles (30 dollars).

After the match in which Argentina beat Russia 3-2, the leaders exchanged opinions on the results with the locals and left the club to their cheers, the television said.

The 56-year old Putin, who has consistently cultivated an image of a virile alfa-male, also posed for pictures with two beaming blondes half his age.

Putin has in the last month alone showed off his muscular torso on his holiday in Siberia and dived to the bottom of the world’s deepest lake, Baikal aboard a mini-submarine.

Medvedev and Putin are both on a working vacation and have summer residences in Sochi, the city set to host the Winter Olympic Games in 2014.

Putin, who earlier Wednesday visited Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia, and Medvedev used the balmy evening to discuss work, the television report said.

In the footage from the nightclub, Putin sat back with a satisfied smile on his face, letting his animated protege Medvedev do most of the talking and joking.

Their parting moment seemed to leave no doubt as to who was a senior partner in the tandem: Putin hugged the youthful president and patted him on the shoulder before the two men went by car back to their separate residences.

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