Finnish television has released rare footage showing a young Vladimir Putin engaging in a carefree game of ping-pong. The recordings, which were made public by Finland's Yle TV, date back to 1991 and feature Putin vacationing with a group of friends from St. Petersburg, including the city's then-mayor, Anatoly Sobchak.
In the footage, Putin is seen dressed in casual sportswear, playing ping-pong with a smile on his face. According to Russia expert Luke Harding, this material is truly unique and offers a glimpse into Putin's life before he began crafting his image as a strong and always-prepared leader.
"This was Putin before he became wealthy: bad windbreaker, bad haircut, bad sleeveless shirt, busy with everyday matters," said the former Moscow correspondent for The Guardian.
Harding also emphasized the unique nature of the footage due to Putin's past as an intelligence agent. "One of the first lessons in spy training is to avoid being photographed. Spies are taught to keep silent all over the world, but especially in the KGB, so this footage is exceptional," he noted.
The report stressed that the informants must remain anonymous due to Putin's unpredictability, as the release of this footage could be highly inconvenient for him. According to one anonymous participant from the trip over 30 years ago, young Putin was very cautious and reserved. "You couldn't get close to Putin to have a vodka and talk about women and life, even in that way," he said.
Harding pointed out that the footage shows a completely different person than the Putin we know today. "The most striking thing is that Putin is smiling and looks like a human being, not the monster he is now," he concluded.
You can watch the footage in the video below