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On holiday with Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev

We've featured one or two slightly odd photos of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev on PhotoBlog recently. The latest eccentric images of Russia's two top leaders were taken by an official Kremlin photographer who accompanied the pair as they holidayed on the banks of the Volga on Tuesday. Reuters reports that the fishing and boating trip comes as they are believed to be close to a decision on which of them will run for president.

Mikhail Klimentyev / Presidential Press Service - RIA Novosti via AP, AFP - Getty Image and Reuters

Three images of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on holiday on the Volga River in the Astrakhan region of Russia, about 800 miles south of Moscow, on Aug. 16.

Ellen Barry of The New York Times wrote today about Putin and Medvedev's obsession with image and approval ratings:

Kremlin insiders see popularity as a key to the survival of a government that, 20 years after the Soviet collapse, has few stable state institutions other than its leaders' personalities.

This accounts for a political life that sometimes looks like a never-ending campaign, in which leaders extinguish wildfires, upbraid billionaire industrialists, or, as was seen last week, scuba dive in the company of a camera crew.

A recent article in Der Spiegel set the complex shadow boxing between Putin and Medvedev in historical context:

This isn't open political competition. Instead, the issue of who will ascend to the most powerful position in Russia will be determined by Byzantine, behind-the-scenes intrigues. Indeed, little has changed since Winston Churchill compared Stalin-era power struggles to bulldogs fighting under a carpet: "An outsider only hears the growling," he said, "and when he sees the bones fly out from beneath, it is obvious who won."

Mikhail Klimentyev / Presidential Press Service - Ria Novosti via Reuters, Alexsey Druginyn / Ria Novosti via Reuters

Left: Dmitry Medvedev prepares to dive with an underwater camera in the river Volga on August 16. Right: Vladimir Putin carries artifacts he recovered whilst diving at an archaeological site off the Taman peninsular in southern Russia on August 10.