ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – In an unusual show of emotion, President Vladimir Putin attempted to flee the cameras on Friday after attending the funeral of Anatoly Rakhlin, his childhood mentor and judo teacher.
TV showed Putin emerging from viewing his teacher’s body lying in state in his native city of St. Petersburg and waving away his black limousine. He told members of his vast entourage he wanted to walk ahead alone, then headed down a long street by himself and crossed a road alongside the River Neva.
In footage filmed by the RT network, it is clear that his security detail followed close behind, while local residents said on Internet forums that the street had been closed off for Putin.
So tightly controlled is Putin’s every public appearance that the footage of him crossing a road on foot with traffic and pedestrians close by appeared unusual.
Rakhlin, who died recently at the age of 75, began training Putin in 1964, when he was age 12. Putin has remained close with his first sparring partners in the group, including billionaire tycoon Arkady Rotenberg.
Putin, who has a black belt in judo, is often depicted in a judo outfit and even co-authored a book called “Let’s Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin” in 2002.
The president last met with Rakhlin in May, when he presented his former teacher with a watch.