Provocative Putin calendar provokes retort
By Steve Gutterman
MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - Some were bearing gifts for Vladimir Putin's 58th birthday on Thursday -- others bared their flesh.
Several female journalism students from a prestigious Russian university posed in slinky lingerie for a calendar filled with warm -- sometimes steamy -- birthday greetings for the prime minister.
The calendar is the latest and one of the flashiest pieces of publicity for Putin, who has assiduously developed a manly image by posing shirtless on horseback, stalking a tiger through Siberian forests and climbing into jet-plane cockpits.
It drew swift and severe criticism from a separate group of journalism students from Moscow State University.
Hard to find in stores but splashed widely across Moscow's tabloids, the cheesecake calendar features a photograph of a woman for every month in 2011, each with a word bubble addressing Putin.
"Vladimir Vladimirovich, WE LOVE YOU!" reads the cover, which shows a close-up of a woman's chest above barely concealed cleavage.
"You only get better with the years," third-year Moscow State University journalism student Nastya Klabukova, posing in a black-and-teal bra and panties, says on the September page.
"The fires are out, but I'm still burning," the March model says -- a risque reference to wildfires that killed more than 50 Russians this summer, and which Putin helped fight by dropping water from a plane. Continued...