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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Badgered by the President, Kasyanov Quits Smoking

MTMikhail Kasyanov enjoying a smoke in this Dec. 12, 1998, photograph, which was taken when he was a deputy finance minister.
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has kicked his smoking habit after taking a subtle hint from his health-conscious boss, President Vladimir Putin, his spokeswoman was quoted as saying Friday.

Kasyanov was pushed to quit when Putin handed him a pair of skis as a birthday gift with the loaded remark that the prime minister "liked to improve his health," Itar-Tass reported.

Kasyanov's spokeswoman, Tatyana Razbash, told the news agency that Kasyanov had been smoking for a long time, and his entourage had been trying to persuade him to quit.

Kasyanov, however, had continued to smoke and had had to go on frequent smoking breaks at work, she said.

In addition to Putin's remarks, a bout with the flu and the Orthodox Lenten fast had inspired Kasyanov to kick the habit, Razbash said.

"What is important is that the decision has been made," Razbash was quoted as saying. "The main thing now is to hold out for as long as possible."

Putin, whose mastery of judo and downhill skiing are frequently featured on television, has sent the country on a health kick, demanding that flabby Russians take up sports to improve their health.

Putin's presidency has seen edicts banning smoking appear in many government buildings, sparing only the odd stairwell for smokers.

Many businesses have followed suit, and shivering executives and office workers are a common sight on the streets as they puff away on cold winter days.

The prime minister is a hangover from more decadent days, an appointee of President Boris Yeltsin, who left office at the end of 1999.

Yeltsin plays tennis and does not smoke but was renowned as a heavy drinker. Since his resignation from the Kremlin, he reportedly has been drinking much less.