Finnish broadcaster Yle TV recently made public a set of unique video clips featuring a young Vladimir Putin. The footage, dating back to 1991, shows Putin in a relaxed setting, playing ping-pong with friends, including Anatoly Sobchak, who was then the mayor of St. Petersburg.
Dressed in casual sportswear, Putin is seen enjoying the game, a stark contrast to the stern image he has cultivated over the years. Luke Harding, a Russia expert, described the footage as a rare look into Putin's life before he became a powerful figure.
"This is a different Putin, one who hadn't yet amassed wealth and was dealing with everyday concerns," said Harding, a former Moscow correspondent for The Guardian.
The footage is particularly noteworthy given Putin's background in intelligence. "Avoiding photographs is one of the first lessons in spy training. This makes the footage exceptional," Harding added.
The release of the video has raised eyebrows, as it could be inconvenient for Putin. An anonymous individual who was part of the trip three decades ago mentioned that even back then, Putin was a reserved person. "You couldn't get close to him, not even for a casual chat over vodka," the source said.
Harding concluded that the video reveals a side of Putin that is far removed from the person we know today. "The most striking aspect is that Putin is smiling and appears human, not the authoritarian figure he has become," he said.
The video has already been viewed many times on YouTube, and among the comments, people are writing:
"Was an ordinary person, but became a monster"
"That Putin is no longer there"
You can view the rare footage in the video linked below: