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Besides Judo, Russia President Fond of Rafting

Russian President Vladimir Putin with daughters visit Altai
A plane with the Russian president on board landed in the city of Barnaul late in the evening, and then Vladimir Putin left the airport for the city of Belokurikha in a helicopter. The administration and the presidential security service made every possible effort drew as little attention to the visit as possible. This is quite understandable as the president came to Altai together with the family to have rest and away from journalist and other people.

President Vladimir Putin met with the head of Altai regional administration Alexander Surikov. He also paid a visit to one of the local maral-breeding farms. This is amazing that the president participated in rafting on the Charysh River. The leader of the local subdivision of the Youth Unity organization Andrey Volkov took part in the rafting together with Vladimir Putin. He tells the details of the event.

"The rafting was part of the president's vacation. As far as I know it was the presidential security service that determined the route for rafting. Several sectors of local rivers were examined for this purpose. It should be a quiet river chosen for rafting. It was decided that the Katun River was too dangerous for rafting and there were many holiday-makers on the river banks. The Charysh River suited better for this purpose: it is a quiet and clean river bordered with natural reserves. A day before the rafting started, twelve rafting instructors recruited by the Raft-Premier tourism company were delivered in helicopters to the place where the rafting was to be held. Nobody knew where exactly the people were landed. We spent a day preparing the outfit and inflating rafts. The presidential security arrived the next morning; Vladimir Putin with his daughters came to the place by 3:00 p.m. In about 30 minutes the rafts were launched.

The instructors were not searched: probably the security took account of a very important psychological aspect that life of the president while he was rafting depended upon the instructors. It was actually very important to create trusting atmosphere. The president even rowed himself. People in a raft must be a team, so all people have to row. As I guessed from Putin's satisfied looks he liked the event very much. While he was rowing he still managed to glance at the nature and things around him. Indeed, the nature of the place is unique; the water in the Charysh River is perfectly clear and the bottom can be seen through very big depth.

The rafting procession was as follows: a raft with the presidential security was the first, then followed the raft where Vladimir Putin sat and his daughters were in the third raft. We were told to keep up the distance of not less than 50 meters between the rafts, but the current was so rough in fact that the rafts nearly hit each other.

The rafting lasted for 2.5 hours and we covered about 20 kilometers. We followed not a difficult route: the most dangerous rapids we passed belonged to the second dangerous category only.

When I saw the president the first idea that came to my mind was that Vladimir Putin was in perfect physical form; when he got out of the helicopter he seemed to me rather athletic and muscled. He was mostly silent and spoke only about the beauty of the local nature. He was surprised that nature in Altai was so wonderful and said people should visit the region oftener.

Before the rafting started we walked to the river bank, I was standing a meter from the president. But the security told me to move aside, keep the distance and not make abrupt movements. However, later I had a chance to ask the president how he liked the rafting. As it turned out it was the first time that Vladimir Putin rafted and he liked it very much.

The presidential security is quiet guys. When you know them better I understand that they are ready to repulse any danger. As for general security during the whole of the event, we saw some people along the route but it was not clear whether they were security guys or locals. A rather interesting incident occurred to us: when we passed the shallow water of the river we saw a fisherman who stood with his back turned to us. At first the security guys were alarmed and started talking to each other over the radio station. When we reached the fisherman we decided to ask him whether it was biting or not. It is strange, but the man responded without turning his face to us. He would be extremely surprise if he learnt that the president rafted by him and he didn't notice the fact. The president was wearing the same outfit and looked like any other member of our expedition.

As for the president's daughters, they are cheerful and sociable girls. We were surprised that they turned out to be that simple. Some rafters exchanged emails with them. But the security constantly kept the eyes on them: we wouldn't be able to present the girls even with flowers without having a special permission of the security.

When the president visited the maral-breeding farm the security asked the personnel of the farm not to give maral horns as a present to the president. It would be not a very nice present in fact.

Two doctors accompanied Vladimir Putin during the trip; they had just small handbags obviously with necessary medicines. There were also two more cases carefully watched by the security. They were rather small cases filled with wires. This is quite understandable that nobody told what kind of cases they were.

I cannot tell the exact place where the rafting finished. We arrived at some tourist camp where helicopters were waiting for us; people were making barbecue there especially for the arrival of the team. When we arrived, Vladimir Putin was still looking around admiring the nature."

For reference:

Two daughters of the Russian president are named after their grandmothers, Yekaterina and Maria. The older daughter, Yekaterina, turned 18 in May, and the younger daughter is 17. Both girls studied at a school based at the German Embassy that is why they perfectly know the German language. Then they were moved to another school. Teachers say both girls were diligent students at school. The girls learnt to play musical instruments, violin and piano. Both girls were keen on the Chinese martial art.

Vadim Kuleshov

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