Picture this: Vladimir Putin, the most powerful man in Russia, lets his eye wander in the direction of a voluptuous, plump-lipped former Miss Moscow participant.
He likes her bling-adorned belly button and appreciates her penchant for donning lace lingerie. In short, the prime minister likes what he sees. You, too, can sneak a peek here
His interest is not surprising, perhaps, as a man famous for his bare-chested trek through the Russian wilderness
would surely to want to cut at least a bit of that testosterone with thoughts of feminine comfort. But Putin is so tantalized, he decides to turn the fantasy into reality.
Beefcake by cheesecake: A portrait of Vladimir Putin taken by Yana Lapikova
Conveniently, the woman has snapped a few pictures in her spare time, and that's plenty justification to make Yana Lapikova the newest addition to the (married) prime minister’s entourage, serving as official photographer.
That, at least, is how the story of a most unlikely government hire has been sketched out in the Russian blogosphere, both before and after Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov confirmed Lapikova’s employment
earlier this week. (Lapikova is still on a trial run, he added, and for her part, Putin’s new friend says her interest in photography easily trumps her modeling career, which she calls a “mistake.”)
Even as Peskov told reporters that Lapikova’s “professional abilities” won her the job -- and since when is Russia not a meritocracy? -- many Internet-savvy citizens are having none of it, offering acidic lines like these on the popular Livejournal.ru:
“What will Kabaeva say about this?!” one user asks, referring to famed rhythmic gymnast Alina, who also gained fame by way of long-standing rumors that she was Putin’s mistress. Kabaeva went on to become a Duma deputy.
“[Putin] tells her, ‘Go ahead, shoot!’” one blogger quips, making full use of the Russian verb "snimat," which means both "to shoot," as in a photo, as well as "to take off" or "remove," as in clothing.
“This should be the poster girl for United Russia,” another blogger jokes, referring to the party of both Putin and Medvedev, which currently enjoys a stranglehold on Russian politics.
But Lapikova might have some competition for that role. President Dmitry Medvedev has his own newly hired personal photographer, and Katya Shtukina isn’t all that unattractive either
. According to the U.K. tabloid “The Daily Mail,” this “battle of the babeskis” could be a proxy war – using women as ammo – as Medvedev and Putin jockey for (male chauvinist) public support ahead of the decision on which of the two will run for president next year.
The ladies have what it takes, Vladimir and Dmitry might be hoping, to cast them in the best light possible.
-- Richard Solash