Thursday 29 September 2016

Adventure-loving Putin takes a trip to the bottom of Black Sea off Crimea coast

Published 18/08/2015 | 20:27

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, sits on board a bathyscaphe as it plunges into the Black sea along the coast of Sevastopol, Crimea, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015.(Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, sits on board a bathyscaphe as it plunges into the Black sea along the coast of Sevastopol, Crimea, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015.(Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, foreground right, sits on board a bathyscaphe as it plunges into the Black sea along the coast of Sevastopol, Crimea, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015. (Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, sits on board a bathyscaphe as it plunges into the Black sea along the coast of Sevastopol, Crimea, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015. (Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, sits on board a bathyscaphe as it plunges into the Black sea along the coast of Sevastopol, Crimea, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015. (Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C), accompanied by Defence Minister and President of the Russian Geographical Society Sergei Shoigu (R), meets with journalists after submerging into the waters of the Black Sea inside a research bathyscaphe as part of an expedition in Sevastopol, Crimea, August 18, 2015. REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

Another summer, another trip to the bottom of a sea for Russia's adventure-loving president.

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Vladimir Putin climbed into a three-seat submersible craft to check out an ancient sunken ship found recently in the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea - the peninsula annexed by Russia last year from Ukraine.

He descended 83 metres (272ft) to see the remains of the Byzantine trading ship, which he said dated back to the 9th or 10th century.

On previous trips deep underwater, Mr Putin has explored the Gulf of Finland and Lake Baikal in submersibles. He also went scuba diving in the Kerch Strait that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, where he brought up fragments of ancient Greek jugs, or amphorae, that his spokesman later admitted had been planted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, foreground right, sits on board a bathyscaphe as it plunges into the Black sea along the coast of Sevastopol, Crimea, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015. (Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, foreground right, sits on board a bathyscaphe as it plunges into the Black sea along the coast of Sevastopol, Crimea, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015. (Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Speaking by radio to prime minister Dmitry Medvedev while still under water, Mr Putin said he hoped the trading ship would shed light on Russia's development and show "how deep our historical roots are".

He told Mr Medvedev he should have come along.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, sits on board a bathyscaphe as it plunges into the Black sea along the coast of Sevastopol, Crimea, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015. (Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, sits on board a bathyscaphe as it plunges into the Black sea along the coast of Sevastopol, Crimea, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015. (Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

"It's great, there are lots of objects, amphorae scattered around," Mr Putin said. He ended the chat with a casual "Big hug!"

Off the vessel, Mr Putin was greeted by Mr Medvedev, who did give him a hug, and also by his chief of staff and defence minister. They were among the many Russian officials who accompanied him on this week's trip to Crimea.

Pressed by a reporter whether it was wise to spend money on such ventures when Russia's economy is struggling through a painful recession, Mr Putin said his dive should help attract publicity and donors to the important work being done by the Russian Geographical Society to study "how our state was built, including in this region".

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