Footage of the June 28 incident was broadcast on all Russian television stations. It quickly became fodder for Internet chat rooms and topped the Moscow tabloids the day after. The question was one of the most popular among the thousands e-mailed in for a live Kremlin Internet conference carried on the British Broadcasting Corp. Web site and a Russian site.
In the footage, Putin is shown walking up to a small crowd of tourists in a Kremlin courtyard and crouching down in front of the boy, who appears to be five or six years old. As the Russian president talks with Nikita for several seconds, he tugs at the boy's shirt before finally lifting it up and kissing him on his bare stomach, the AP reports.
``He seemed to me very independent, very serious, but at the same time a boy is always vulnerable. He was very sweet. I'll be honest, I felt an urge to squeeze him like a kitten and that led to the gesture that I made. There was nothing behind it really,'' Putin said, smiling.
After it turned out that Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov included the Fonbet betting company in the list of backbone enterprises that can count on state support, everyone started talking about these bookmakers.