Weirdest Putin moments from bear wrestling to ice hockey amid Ukraine invasion

In his 18 years as Russian president, Vladimir Putin has had to get creative with propaganda, and has taken to bear hugging, partaking in ice hockey games and taking a submarine to the depths of the Black Sea.

The eyes of the world are focussed back on the not so camera shy head of state as his military invades neighbouring Ukraine.

In 2015, Putin attempted to paint himself as Russia's answer to James Bond by taking a ride in a mini-submarine. Pictures of the journey are popular online, often used in memes.

The showy Russian president added to his long-running series of stunts by clambering into a glass bubble and plumbing the depths of the Black Sea that August.

Naturally, he made sure there were enough underwater cameras to capture his slow descent into the water.

The dive was officially organised so Putin could view a Byzantine-era shipwreck on the seabed. But unofficially, it was about strutting his stuff in the Crimea.

Officials in Kyiv accused the president of attempting to stir up tension with the bizarre event, and claimed Crimea's proper place was back with Ukraine.

But speaking after his deep-sea mission, Putin said: "The future of Crimea was determined by people who live on this land.

"They voted to be united with Russia. That's it. Full stop."

In March 2014 a referendum was held on whether citizens wanted Crimea to become part of Russia.

It is often hailed as the people's choice by the Kremlin – but it was held with armed men on the streets.

In May 2015 he played a hockey game against ex-professionals from the National Hockey League, and scored an unbelievable (literally) eight goals.

The same year, he was snapped alongside former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev puming iron. Afterwards, they drank tea and grilled meat in the Sochi bolthole.

  • Boris Johnson brands Putin 'bloodstained aggressor determined to attack Ukraine'

And in 2009 he was snapped riding a horse through the woods of Siberia, swimming laps in a lake and building a fire. All topless.

In August 2011, state media reported that he found ancient ceramic pots when scuba diving in the Black Sea, at a Greek ruins site. He pulled them out of the sand with his bare hands and photographers were primed.

Putin has always been keen to showcase his masculinity, including when he was pictured fitting a tracking collar on a tranquilised polar bear and giving it a hug during a trip to the Arctic in 2010.

In another animal-themed tryst, he "saved" a TV crew from a Siberian Tiger during a 2008 trip to the Ussuri reserve in Siberia.

When one of the big cats reportedly escaped a trap and lunged at the camera crew, Putin was reportedly very quick to shoot the tiger with a tranquilizer gun. This, however, was not caught on camera.

In a much more fluffy animal story, after securing an oil pipeline deal with Bulgaria in late 2010 he was gifted a puppy from the country's head of state.

He crowdsourced a name for the puppy, settling on one chose by a five-year-old boy who was subsequently invited to the president's residence.

More recently, in March 2020, Putin visited a hospital on the outskirts of Moscow treating COVID-19 patients, hazmat suit and all.

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