Spokesman Denies Putin Danced to ABBA Hits

Vladimir Putin's spokesman has denied that the prime minister attended a private concert by an ABBA tribute band.

But members of the Bjorn Again band gave plenty of details and said they recognized Putin at the Jan. 22 gig on the shores of Lake Valdai.

The revelations that Putin could be a closet ABBA fan run counter to his traditional strongman image.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied on Friday that Putin attended any such party on or around Jan. 22, adding, "Neither Mr. Putin nor his apparatus ordered any band of this kind."

"I have no doubt that he likes some music of ABBA," Peskov said. "But he simply wasn't there."

ABBA was one of the best-loved foreign bands during Soviet times, and the Swedish quartet even traveled to Moscow to perform in the Kremlin.

Bjorn Again member Aileen McLaughlin said the band traveled 320 kilometers north of Moscow to Lake Valdai to perform before an audience of eight people -- Putin, an unidentified blond woman and six other men in tuxedoes. McLaughlin said the audience -- comfortably seated on three sofas -- appeared to enjoy the concert.

"They were clapping and swaying, and putting their fingers in the air, that kind of thing," McLaughlin said. "He [Putin] had good rhythm. He was shouting 'Bravo, Bravo!' after the songs."

A lace curtain separated the band from the elite audience for the hour-long, high-security show, but McLaughlin said at one point the spotlight flashed on the audience and band members saw Putin. McLaughlin described the lone woman as a blonde who was "wearing a long, cream, really pretty dress." Putin's wife, Lyudmila, has blond hair, but they are rarely seen together anymore.

The show was organized by Moscow-based agency SAV Entertainment, said Bjorn Again founder Rod Stephen.

A woman at SAV Entertainment denied that the agency had anything to do with the event. "We are telling everyone that such a concert never took place. We are denying it," she said, refusing to give her name.

Stephen told CNN: "I've had phone calls from the agency saying, 'Don't talk to anyone else. We are getting grief from the Kremlin.' But there was no nondisclosure contract."

(AP, MT)