What do you give Vladimir Putin for his birthday? Simples, at least according to a bunch of Moscow journalism students; his very own girlie calendar. Twelve of them stripped off to their underwear and posed along with flirtatious messages for the Prime Minister.
However, the calendar - entitled "Vladimir Vladimirovich, We love you. Happy Birthday Mr Putin," is not what you might call a spontaneous gesture; the women were recruited by Maxim Perlin, a producer at an internet TVchannel, who teamed up with publisher Vladimir Tabak for the project.
According to Perlin, who at 22 has a long and presumably sleazy career ahead of him, the girls were not paid. He claimed the the calendar 'had an empowering message' - the battle-cry of twenty-first century exploitation - and the women were recruited because of their political opinions.
Asked why, in that case, they were photographed in lacy underwear, he explained "In my opinion it's more beautiful and more interesting." It would be interesting to know whether Putin shares his view.
It would also be interesting to know what the Prime Minister thinks of sharing his birthday present - far from being an exclusive gift, fifty thousand copies of the calendar are to be sold in supermarkets at 260 roubles ($8.71) each; the story does not say where the profits will go.
Not everyone approves: Journalism faculty spokeswoman Larisa Bakulina described the calendar as a "work of erotic tastelessness."
"We are not happy that they used the brand of the journalism faculty. It is tactless on the part of the publishers."
Tasteless and tactless; at least someone has a sense of perspective. It's a fair bet that Ms Bakulina didn't get where she is without being a forceful character and she certainly doesn't mince her words; it's hard to imagine her showing much sympathy for a student who allows two men to exploit her in this way.
I wonder what sort of reception awaits Putin's calendar girls when they return to Ms Bakulina's faculty for the start of the new term.
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