On the opening day of the latest G7 summit, 26 June 2022, Western leaders joked about how they might intimidate Russian President Vladimir Putin in a rather unconventional way. “Jackets on? Jackets off? Shall we take our clothes off?” the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked, ironically wondering how the leaders should dress for an unofficial photo before their lunch meeting began.
“We all have to show that we’re tougher than Putin,” the British leader continued to joke. “We’re going to get the bare-chested horseback riding display,” quipped Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, they were referring to the Russian leader’s many shirtless pictures, which have since been turned into countless memes online.
Well, on a recent visit to Turkmenistan, Putin was asked about the very instance Western leaders joked about him in front of the world. He stated that, unlike him, they abuse alcohol and don’t do any exercise. “I don’t know how they wanted to get undressed, above or below the waist,” he said. “But I think it would be a disgusting sight in any case.”
He added that, to look good, “it’s necessary to stop abusing alcohol and other bad habits, do physical exercise and take part in sports.”
When asked about his penchant for “half-naked” photos back in 2018, Putin defended the collection of photographs. “When I am on vacation I see no need to hide behind the bushes, and there is nothing wrong with that,” he told a reporter.
As the Putin commentary continued at the G7 summit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen shifted the conversation from teasing the Russian leader to an enthusiastic endorsement of equestrianism. “Ah, yes,” she said. “Horseback riding is the best, though!”
Trudeau and von der Leyen were referring to one photoshoot from 2009 which featured a shirtless Putin riding a horse in the mountains. In 2018, more outdoorsy-themed shots emerged, showing the politician stripped to his waist and fishing in a Siberian lake.