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You're reading: Putin triggers topless protest, speculation over his appearance

No big deals were announced during Putin’s Oct. 27 visit.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was greeted to Kyiv on Oct. 27 by topless protesters campaigning against what they said is Russia’s growing influence in Ukraine.

While Putin Vladimir Putin was discussing gas deals with his Ukrainian counterpart, Mykola Azarov, two blocks away, members of the women’s rights group Femen decided to take off most of their clothes and ridicule the Kremlin leader.

“We won’t sleep with Kremlin midgets” and “You can’t make us bend over that easily,” read two placards held by six young women with nothing to hide as they stood in downtown Kyiv on the square facing Bessarabsky Market in front of the Vladimir Lenin monument.

We are protesting against the interference of Russia in Ukraine’s internal affairs. After these visits, restrictions are placed on media and the right to demonstrate, just like in Russia.”

– Anna Hutsol, Femen leader.

The name of their protest, “Ukrayina ne Alina” (Ukraine is not Alina), refers to Putin’s reputed longtime romantic relationship with the pro-Kremlin Russian lawmaker Alina Kabayeva, a former world champion gymnast.

Femen activists said Putin has a negative influence on his Ukrainian colleagues.

“We are protesting against the interference of Russia in Ukraine’s internal affairs. After these visits, restrictions are placed on media and the right to demonstrate, just like in Russia,” Femen leader Anna Hutsol said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is shown during his meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in Kyiv on Oct. 27 (top) and with Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov (bottom) during their meeting in Kyiv on Oct. 27. (AP)

While Femen members bared their chests, Putin and Azarov negotiated final details for a joint venture to process uranium and discussed Russian natural gas supplies for which Ukraine is seeking a discount. No new gas deal came out of the meeting.

Russia in April agreed to provide cheaper gas supplies in return for the stationing of its Black Sea Fleet on Ukraine’s territory until 2042.

The prime ministers did manage to agree on a joint venture between the two countries’ state aircraft-building companies and a joint venture to produce nuclear fuel in Ukraine.

But with no major gas deals announced, more attention was focused on the tired-looking Putin’s face. Photos appeared to show dark bruises under the eyes of the Russian leader, who is famed for his macho man image and love of judo. Even heavy make-up could not cover the blemishes, and Russian and Ukrainian media speculated that it was a judo injury, or perhaps even a facelift.

Putin’s spokesman told the Associated Press that it was simply caused by tiredness from a busy schedule or bad lighting in the room.

Despite his apparent fatigue, Putin spent three hours at Yanukovych’s suburban mansion following his meeting with Azarov, before flying off to Moscow around 1:30 p.m., a Kyiv-based Russian diplomat told the Kyiv Post. He didn’t say what the presidents discussed.

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