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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putins Seen Through Friend's Eyes

Lyudmila Putin once called President Vladimir Putin a vampire, while he in turn has suggested that anyone who could put up with her for three weeks was heroic and deserved a monument.

These and other observations about the presidential family's private life are detailed in a new book titled "Fragile Friendships" and penned by a German friend who became acquainted with the Putins in 1995.

The book was released in Hamburg on Thursday.

"Unfortunately, he is a vampire," Irene Pietsch, the wife of a Hamburg banker, quotes Russia's first lady as joking in her book, excerpts of which were published in advance by the German magazine Der Speigel.

Pietsch also writes that Lyudmila Putin has a fondness for astrology that did not rest well with her husband, who shushed her when she started talking about zodiac signs.

Pietsch said Lyudmila Putin thought highly of truthfulness, but was reprimanded by her husband: "Who cares about your truths." Then Vladimir Putin told Pietsch that she would deserve a monument if she could bear to spend three weeks with Lyudmila.

Lyudmila Putin complained that her husband broke a promise to stay away from the world of spying when he agreed to head the Federal Security Service in July 1998, according to Der Speigel.

"It's terrible," Lyudmila complained in a telephone call that turned out to be the last contact the two women ever had with each other. "We won't be allowed to contact each other again."

"This awful isolation. No more traveling wherever we want to go; no longer able to say whatever we want. I had only just begun to live," she said.

The book is written in German and published by Molden Verlag in Vienna.

A spokeswoman for the publisher, who declined to be identified, said Thursday that 4,000 copies had been printed. Copies cost $26.50 each.

Molden has no plans to publish the book into English or Russian at the moment, but if there is enough interest it would probably be translated, the spokeswoman said by telephone from Vienna.

Kremlin spokesmen could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The two women met in 1995 when Vladimir Putin was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg and his family was visiting Hamburg, which has a sister-city relationship with Russia's northern capital.

The future president's family had all learned German while he was a KGB agent stationed in the East German city of Dresden in the 1980s.

In 1996, the Putins visited Hamburg again, even though Putin had lost his job after mentor Anatoly Sobchak was defeated as St. Petersburg mayor.

Pietsch said Lyudmila Putin described her husband as just the right man for her — he didn't drink and he didn't beat her.

However, she fretted about him spending too much time with his friends in the evenings — social gatherings at which she had to serve drinks, gherkins and fish, Pietsch writes.

Lyudmila also complained about German men rousing their wives early every morning to prepare their husbands' breakfasts because her Volodya started making similar demands after visiting Germany.

When Putin started working as deputy to then-Kremlin property manager Pavel Borodin, the women indulged in an intense correspondence by fax from Putin's Kremlin office.

In 1997, Pietsch and her husband visited the Putins for a week. They stayed at a government dacha in Arkhangelskoye, where Lyudmila cooked soups and Vladimir Putin, wearing a pullover, exuded charm. Pietsch describes his blue-green eyes as "two hungry, lurking predators" that he used as weapons. On that particular visit, Putin declared himself in favor of a Russian version of Germany's social democracy, she said.

Lyudmila told her later that her husband "always goes to Finland when he has something important to say. He doesn't think there is anywhere in Russia where you can speak without being overheard."

She also talked of how when she was a flight attendant she had made sandwiches that she sold at a huge profit until the pilot, who was not getting any of the proceeds, stopped her.

Lyudmila traveled to Hamburg in 1997 for four days and spent most of her time shopping. Pietsch said Lyudmila was angry that her husband, apparently aware of the uproar over credit cards allegedly issued to the Yeltsin family, had not given her a credit card. "I will never be like Raisa Gorbachev," Pietsch quotes Lyudmila as saying.

The women spoke often, talking about sex and God and how to behave in their respective countries. Lyudmila asked whether she should tip shop assistants and whether it was all right to take your own food to a bar.

As for Russian customs, Lyudmila advised: "You must always listen between the words and read between the lines."