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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 July 2006, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Putin recalls kissing boy's belly
President Putin kisses Nikita on the stomach
Mr Putin described the boy as "very sweet"

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his controversial kissing of a boy on the stomach was just a spontaneous gesture of affection.

Mr Putin came across Nikita, five, in the Kremlin last week, lifted up his T-shirt and suddenly kissed him.

"He seemed very independent and serious... I wanted to cuddle him like a kitten and it came out in this gesture. He seemed so nice," he said.

The kiss - shown on Russian television - triggered huge public interest.

"There is nothing behind it", Mr Putin told the BBC in a live webcast on Thursday, explaining that the encounter on 28 June was quite spontaneous.

Vladimir Putin

Nikita was among a group of tourists visiting the Kremlin.

The kiss triggered intense speculation in the Russian and foreign media, with questions being raised about the president's motivation.

More than 11,000 people asked Mr Putin to explain what prompted his act during the webcast organised by the BBC and Russia's Yandex website.

Russia's Izvestia newspaper, which later found Nikita, reported that he had refused to wash after the kiss.

"I just liked him [Mr Putin] and he liked me very much. I want to be president myself," the boy was quoted by the daily as saying.

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