UNSEEN footage has emerged showing a podgy-looking Vladimir Putin playing a game of ping-pong with his political mentor who was later allegedly assassinated.
Sporting a cheap shell suit and a dodgy haircut, the tyrant barely resembles the perfectly groomed brute the world has come to know.
Putin looks unrecognisable in the rare clips from before he came to power[/caption]
He was enjoying a trip to Finland with mentor Anatoly Sobchak in the early 1990s[/caption]
The grainy footage shot during a visit to Finland in the early 1990s is a far cry from Putin’s strongman image forged by the Kremlin.
In recent years he has shared snaps riding horses topless, taking part in judo demonstrations and tracking tigers.
But this bombshell footage obtained by Finland’s national broadcaster YLE has shattered the illusion of his genetic superiority.
In the footage, the future Russian President looks goofy as he laughs with his companions while enjoying table tennis, darts and fishing.
Then around aged 40, he donned a blue and red shell suit for the activity-filled day with Anatoly Sobchak and his beefy bodyguards.
Putin had joined the mayor of St Petersburg for a trip to Russia‘s neighbouring country around a May Day holiday in the early 1990s.
It was around the time the warlord was getting his foot in the door as a political figure after Sobchak had taken him under his wing.
Footage shows an awkward-looking Putin playing a game of ping pong alongside his bare-chested former mentor and two others.
Clearly feeling the heat from his competitors and the spring sunshine, he removed his garish jacket to reveal a greying vest.
PLE noted that Putin and Sobchak’s table tennis rivals “understood their role”, proving just enough of a challenge but still letting their bosses win.
Putin even gingerly chased the ball after it bounced off the table across the grounds of the villa on the island of Torsö in Raseborg.
The property was reportedly owned by Finnish trade company Thomesto, which at the time imported timber from Russia.
In another video, Putin is seen enjoying a decadent meal at a table with wine alongside at least another ten people.
He quietly munches away while the camera focuses on Sobchak as he carves a hunk of meat at the head of the table.
The future Russian leader joked about him gnawing on bones, which was met by laughter at the crowded table.
Other gags from the group about overindulging while Russian people starved and the market economy were also cracked.
Further footage shows Putin in a small boat as he returns from a fishing trip on a tranquil Finnish lake wearing an orange raincoat.
He keeps his back to the camera while his hood hides his receding hairline, suggesting he was keen to keep out of the shot – like a true KGB spy.
A fourth clip shows Putin gearing up for an outdoor game of darts, after another bloke had hung a board up on a tree.
He shyly glances at the camera before his eyes immediately dart to the floor, which is a huge contrast to his usual unwavering stare.
The videos are believed to have been shot shortly after Putin was appointed as the head of the Committee for External Relations.
Sobchak gave him the gig in 1991 when he became mayor and began coaching him on the inner workings of the political world in Russia.
The strong authoritarian figure is thought to have been a major influence on Putin’s own strict regime.
Sobchak served as mayor until 1996 with the warlord as his right-hand man, despite his tenure being dogged by claims of corruption.
Meanwhile, Putin continued to rise the ranks while leaning on his pal for advice on his presidential campaign.
But the well of inspiration ran out in 2000, when Sobchak mysteriously died during a trip to Kaliningrad.
The 62-year-old’s official cause of death was a heart attack – but there was speculation foul play may have been involved.
Two of Sobchak’s assistants who were also his bodyguards also had to reportedly receive treatment for mild symptoms of poisoning.
A murder investigation was opened, but the probe was shut down after just three months without any findings.
Sobchak’s widow Lyudmila had her own autopsy done on her husband’s body, but never disclosed the results publicly.
She told the BBC that she keeps the documents in a secure location outside of Russia.
Putin told Russian TV he believed the death was down to stress, saying: “Sobchak’s passing is not just a death but a violent death, the result of persecution.”
Despite Sobchak’s death, his political spirit lived on through his daughter Ksenia – better known as Putin’s unacknowledged goddaughter.
She ran against the warlord in the 2018 presidential election, although critics believe she was used as a fake opposition candidate.
Ksenia has been at the centre of a number of scandals, including wrecking Roman Abramovich’s marriage and posing for Playboy.
Fans compared the tanned blonde to Paris Hilton – with Muscovites dubbing her “Paris Hiltonski”.
She later ditched her party-girl ways for politics and carved out a more serious persona.
Putin similarly cleaned up his act – by getting rid of any sign of weakness that his enemies could take advantage of.
Since becoming Russia’s President on New Year’s Eve in 1999, he has maintained his facade as an emotionless macho man.
The public is only shown carefully selected images and videos which have been approved by the Kremlin, rather than his softer side.
The now-70-year-old prefers to share content which bolsters his tough guy image, such as hunting bears in the wilds of Siberia.
Keen to quiet whispers of his ailing health, he has often been pictured playing ice hockey, or firing guns at a shooting range.
Reports even claim Putin has gone under the knife and uses Botox to keep up a youthful appearance.
The 5ft 7ins tyrant has also been spotted sporting high heel shoes, although sources claim it was in fact one of his alleged body doubles.
The despot sported a vibrant shell suit and a dodgy haircut in the footage[/caption]
Putin was seen chomping down on food on the trip to Finland[/caption]
Sobchak and Putin played ping pong with the former mayor’s bodyguards[/caption]
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