Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken a high-profile dive to the bottom of the Black Sea to explore an ancient shipwreck off Crimea in a submersible, in a stunt aimed at cementing his image as adventurer and control of the annexed territory, reports AFP.
The Russian leader, who is on a three-day visit to recently annexed Crimea, was wearing a beige pantsuit and plunged down to a depth of 83 metres seated alongside the pilot in the glass-bubble cabin of the Dutch-made vessel.
His head could be seen poking from the submersible vessel's glass dome structure before he took it 83m below the water off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine last year.
Speaking over the radio while still underwater, Putin said he hoped the discovery would shed light on Russia's 'historical development'.
'83m is a pretty substantial depth... It was interesting,' Putin said.
The mission was part of a Russian Geographic Society expedition researching Crimea’s ancient trade route.
Such research is important “in order to understand the development of ancient Rus’s relations with its neighbours, as well as the development of Russian statehood,” Mr Putin told reporters.
Off the vessel, Putin was greeted by Prime Minister Dmitry 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.