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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 18:11 GMT
President gets personal
Vladimir and Ludmilla Putin in India
Mr Putin defended his wife's reticence in public
Vladimir Putin's webcast revealed a glimpse into the lifestyle of a man whose enigmatic personality has provoked as much interest as his policies.

In a live, worldwide web performance which some might have found nerve-wracking, the president remained outwardly relaxed and cool throughout the hour-long event.

The Kremlin world he revealed was one of a tough fitness regime and long hours at work - and a yearning for the French films he loves but no longer has time for.

Mr Putin gave details of his daily routine - and music and film tastes - after questions from US and UK readers.

Exercise

Mr Putin revealed that he exercises for around one-and-a-half hours every day - usually including a 20-minute swim.


We had a very good literature teacher at school - he taught us to cherish literature

Vladimir Putin
"I get up early... I finish work late - at around 11, 10 o'clock at night or midnight. ," he said.

In the rare moments he gets to relax, he listens to classical music - particularly Tchaikovsky and Schubert.

In literature, his love is for Russian classical works.

"We had a very good literature teacher at school. He taught us to cherish literature," he said.

He is currently reading two books, he revealed - a history of Catherine the Great, and a philosophical work about Russian literature and history - as part of a quest for self-improvement which he said everyone should follow.

Beyond revealing his love for Russian classical literature, and what he called popular classical music, Mr Putin betrayed a love of French culture - naming Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas and Guy de Maupassant as favourite authors.

Screen love

"I liked French cinema very much," he added, hinting that it was a hobby which had lost out to his presidential lifestyle.

Vladimir Putin
Mr Putin seemed more comfortable with some questions than others
Asked for his favourite western actor, it took Mr Putin some moments to come up with the answer: the glamorous Austrian-born star Romy Schneider.

She starred in a string of films - among them the 1971 movie L'assassinat de Trotsky (The assassination of Trotsky) until her death in 1982.

The president's only hint of discomfort came when the focus of questioning shifted away from his own life, and turned to his wife's behaviour in public.


Citizens elected me - not my wife... she has a very difficult cross to bear

Mr Putin on his wife's public behaviour
In contrast to other Russian first ladies, Ludmilla Putin keeps a low profile and is shy in public.

"The citizens of Russia elected me - not my wife - as the president... I am very grateful to her. She has a difficult cross to bear," he said defensively.

"As for behavioural style, this is very much individual."

Mr Putin did back calls for more women in Russian public life.

"The degree of freedom and democracy in a society determines the position of women in that society," he said, acknowledging that Russia had a long way to go.

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See also:

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The battle over missile defence
30 Mar 00 | Americas
Q & A: Son of Star Wars
06 Mar 01 | Europe
Putin live: Transcript of webcast
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