Europe

Vladimir Putin stars in gala hockey match

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Media captionThe Russian president scored eight goals for his team, as Tom Spender reports

Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken to the ice aged 62 to score goal after goal in a gala hockey match with retired NHL players in Sochi.

The famously macho leader scored eight goals - with a little help from stars like Pavel Bure and Valeri Kamensky - and his team won 18-6.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev sat out the friendly in the stands.

Mr Putin, better known for his love of judo, only recently took up hockey and clearly enjoyed himself.

His performance on skates drew jokes on social media. Mashable correspondent Christopher Miller reported in a tweet, "Underdog #Putin, scoring 8 goals, leads Stars hockey team to surprise 18-6 victory in #Sochi".

"This is Russian media's version of a cute puppy video," tweeted Russian sports writer Slava Malamud.

The Sochi match, held to celebrate 70 years since Victory in World War Two, coincided with Russia's national hockey team winning the semi-final in the ice hockey world championship against the US 4-0. It will play Canada in the final on Sunday.

In March, questions were raised about the health of Mr Putin, who plunged the world into uncertainty last year by annexing Crimea from Ukraine, when he disappeared from public view for 10 days before re-emerging without explanation.

His athletic, action man image has long been cultivated by the Kremlin with the three-term president doing everything from riding bare-chested to boarding a fighter jet.

Mr Putin's semi-official personality cult took yet another turn on Saturday when a Cossack group near the northern city of St Petersburg unveiled a bust of the Russian president, depicted like a Roman emperor.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Cossacks unveiled a bust of Vladimir Putin in the village of Kasimovo near St Petersburg.
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Over his career, Mr Putin has posed with tigers, such as this one being fitted with a satellite transmitter in the Russian Far East in 2008...
Image copyright AFP
Image caption ...and flown in supersonic jets like this Tupolev-160 strategic bomber he visited in 2005.
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Images of Mr Putin bare-chested on a horse in 2009 have given rise to countless internet memes mocking the Kremlin's top man.

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