MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin revealed the secrets of swimming butterfly across a Siberian river and how to keep a tone body in an interview with British supermodel Naomi Campbell published on Tuesday.
Putin, Russia's 58-year-old paramount leader, has cultivated an action-man image with regular stunts that underline his physical prowess, from helping the national judo team to fighting forest fires.
When quizzed by Campbell about why he was shown thrashing across a Siberian river in 2009, Putin said:
"I was swimming butterfly because the water was cold. It was one of the famous Siberian rivers and the water was something like 16 degrees Celsius. My idea was to get out of the water as soon as possible," Putin was quoted as saying in the interview for men's magazine GQ.
Campbell, who spends part of the year in Moscow with her Russian boyfriend, property mogul Vladimir Doronin, praised Putin's physique and asked how he kept fit.
"I go to the gym, I swim daily and from time to time I meet with friends and spend some time on the judo mats. I had a good work-out just the day before yesterday," Putin told Campbell according to a transcript supplied by the Russian government.
The interview was recorded in December.
Putin praised female journalism students from a prestigious Russian university who posed in slinky lingerie for a calendar filled with warm -- sometimes steamy -- birthday greetings for the prime minister's 58th birthday in 2010.
"I like the girls a lot, they're beautiful," Putin said. "The girls in the erotic calendar were courageous."
Putin, who stepped down as president in 2008 after propelling his protege Dmitry Medvedev to the Kremlin's top job, is Russia's most powerful and most popular leader.
Campbell asked Putin whether he participated in bare-knuckle fights which he is known to attend.
"No, it is not my sport; since I was 14, I've done judo. But the bare-knuckle fight I attended was very impressive. These guys are tough," Putin said.
Writing by Gleb Bryanski, editing by Paul Casciato