Putin Sexy but Not the Most Sexy

APPutin fishing in the Yenisei River in Siberia last year.
He single-handedly saved a TV crew from the jaws of a tiger. He flexed his muscles in front of the cameras in Siberia. He cuts a dash on the ski slopes.

He is Prime Minister Vladimir Putin — but not quite Russia's sexiest politician. At least, that is, according to the Sex & The City magazine. In its September Sexy Rating list, the glamour magazine ranks who it considers the 20 sexiest politicians. At the top is Boris Nemtsov, a former leader of opposition party Union of Right Forces, now viewed by many as a spent force.

It is rare that Putin loses out at home. A winner abroad — selected as Time's person of the year in 2007 and Vanity Fair's most powerful and influential figure of the year this month — Putin courts widespread popularity at home.

"This is good news … but I don't take it too seriously," said Nemtsov, who is pictured sitting on a bed, barefoot and dressed in a gray silk shirt and chinos. Although graying at the temples, that doesn't seem to put the voters off.

Responding to a query on how Putin might feel at being pushed into second place, Nemtsov said, "I don't know, and I don't care. But he has unlimited opportunities to overturn my result. Maybe this comes as an unpleasant surprise for him, but I guess he has other problems right now."

Igor Tabakov / MT
Nemstov preparing to swim in Moscow in early 2003.
Sergei Markov, a United Russia deputy in the State Duma, said he was taken aback by the result.

"Putin is way better than Nemtsov," he said. "He's one of the sexiest politicians in the world." His looks may be average, he conceded, but his "decisive, harsh and unbending" character makes him extremely attractive.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov laughed in an embarrassed fashion, and said it was hard for him to comment.

A black belt in judo and an accomplished skier, Putin has been snapped in an array of macho shots, from flying in a fighter jet to sailing on a nuclear submarine. In his most recent escapade last month, Putin "saved" a TV crew from a gory death at the paws of a tiger, shooting it in the nick of time with a tranquilizer gun in the Ussuriisky Nature Reserve.

Compiled from an anonymous poll among 20 female employees, most of them in their mid-30s, the magazine's results are sometimes surprising.

Eduard Limonov — the aging opposition figure, who sports a tufted haircut and goatee — comes in at No. 14. Thrice married, his current partner is some 30 years his junior.

"Putin's just short — what's sexy about that?" laughed Limonov, before conceding that Putin's power was his biggest attraction.

Snappy dresser Sberbank chief German Gref comes in at No. 9, while President Dmitry Medvedev places seventh.

In a country with limited media freedoms and carefully controlled images of its leadership, it is unthinkable that an opposition figure could push Putin into second place. But, said Kristina Ilyina, Sex & The City's commissioning editor, "We can afford to take serious issues lightly."