“Jacket on? Jacket off? Shall we take our clothes off?” Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked, apparently wondering how leaders should prepare for an informal photo before the lunch meeting begins.
“We all have to show that we are tougher than Putin,” joked the British leader at the summit site in Schloss Elmau, Germany.
Putin was removed from the group in 2014 after Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean region of Ukraine.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau quipped, “We’re going to get a demonstration of bare-chested equestrianism,” referring to the Russian president’s tendency to distribute photos of himself outside—sometimes shirtless, in which Horse riding is also included.
“There you go! There you go! We have to show them our pecs!” Johnson added.
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From arm-wrestling to martial arts, Putin’s hobbies have sought to present physical strength and power central to his personal brand.
Over the years, the Russian leader has often been photographed with his torso full display, posing for an array of memes online with fodder.
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A photoshoot in 2009 showed a shirtless Putin riding a horse in the mountains. In 2018, more outdoor themed shots surfaced, showing Putin with a bandage around his waist and fishing in a Siberian lake. It had pictures of Putin, a swimmer and a sunbathing Putin.
When asked by a reporter in 2018 about his penchant for “half-naked” photos, Putin defended the collection of photographs.
“When I’m on vacation, I think there’s no need to hide behind bushes and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Putin told an Australian journalist.
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As Putin’s remarks continued, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen took a jibe at diplomacy on Sunday, shifting the conversation from teasing the Russian leader to fervent support of equestrian.
“Ah, yes,” she said. “Equestrian is the best, though!”
President Biden – who remained silent during the counteroffensive – finally, at the insistence of his fellow leaders, turned his chair around and smiled for the picture.
Biden opted for the jacket.