MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s two top leaders, believed to be close to a decision on which of them will run for president, spent Tuesday fishing and boating on the Volga river in a rare, day-long private meeting, the Kremlin said.
President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin went for a walk on the river bank in the Astrakhan region in southern Russia, did some spin fishing and then set off for a boat trip to take underwater pictures.
The meeting on the Volga was not announced in advance. Putin arrived from Moscow, where he was meeting his Belarusian counterpart on Monday, while Medvedev flew in from the Black Sea resort of Sochi where he is spending his summer holiday.
One picture posted on the Kremlin website www.kremlin.ru showed Medvedev posing in a wetsuit with an underwater camera, another holding a half-meter long pike fish with Putin in the background and a third in which he was steering a motorboat.
Putin, a keen fisherman who himself donned a wetsuit last week to dive at an underwater archaeological in the Black Sea, was captured struggling to take a much smaller fish off the hook.
Both Medvedev and Putin have hinted that one of them, but not both, will run in the March 2012 presidential election and are expected to make a decision soon.
The leaders’ public statements, appearances and schedules have been scrutinized in recent months for signs of rivalry, a likely timing of the decision or early evidence that the decision has already been made.
Senior political sources told Reuters last month that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was close to a decision to run himself because he has doubts about his protege Medvedev.
Putin ruled as president from 2000 to 2008 before handing over to Medvedev to comply with a constitutional ban on a third consecutive term. He will be free to run in the March vote. (Writing by Gleb Bryanski, editing by Rosalind Russell)