MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday dived to the bottom of the Baltic Sea aboard a submersible to explore the wreck of a ship that sank in 1869.
State television pictures showed Putin climbing aboard the Sea Explorer 5 underwater research vessel for the half-hour dive to the wreck of a frigate that sank in the Gulf of Finland.
"It is lying on its right side," Putin said in televised reports afterwards, saying the vessel was well-preserved.
"Indeed, it's in perfect state, the name of the ship can be clearly read.
"It's not scary, it's very interesting," he added, referring to the experience.
Television broadcast green-tinted footage showing the Russian strongman carefully inspecting the shipwreck from inside the submersible.
He said he was not at the controls himself, noting he was not skilled enough. "You have to have lots of experience to operate this machine," he was quoted as saying.
The Oleg was discovered by Russian divers in 2003 and is now being studied by scientists.
It lies at a depth of 60 metres (200 feet) between the islands of Gogland and Sommers.
The 60-year-old sports-mad president, who returned to the Kremlin for a third term last year, prides himself on keeping in peak physical condition and has raised eyebrows with a series of media-friendly stunts in recent years.
A self-professed thrill-seeker, Putin in 2009 dived to the bottom of Lake Baikal in Siberia aboard a mini-submarine.
In 2011, he announced that he had discovered two ancient urns while scuba diving in the Black Sea in 2011, but last year the Kremlin admitted the stunt was staged.