MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev posed in front of cameras in matching beige sweaters on Friday night, playing billiards and watching a film about World War Two.
Gold-rimmed dishes of nuts and berries were laid out in the carefully staged scene, likely an attempt to hone the image of relationship amid speculation of growing tension between the two leaders ahead of a presidential election in 2012.
“They took a walk around the residence, played a game of billiards and watched the film ‘Brestskaya Krepost’,” said Kremlin spokeswoman Natalia Timakova, adding that the informal get-together took place on Friday night.
Analysts believe that any form of visible tension or rivalry between Putin and Medvedev ahead of the election could shake political stability cherished by Russians and foreign investors.
These fears were reinforced this week following the release of U.S. diplomatic cables by the website WikiLeaks which described Putin as Russia’s “alpha-dog” ruler and Medvedev as a sidekick-like “Robin to Putin’s Batman”.
The cables also portrayed Russia as a lawless country dominated by a corrupt elite. Medvedev on Friday said the cables demonstrated the “cynicism” of U.S. diplomacy.
Putin -- who was president between 2000 and 2008 -- has suggested he may return for the next vote or support the current president. He has said the two will make the decision together.
A Medvedev aide struck the clearest note of discord between the two camps in October when he said Putin should stand down from the next presidential election for the good of the country.
Publicity stunts by the two rulers are a frequent occurrence and, while being carefully orchestrated, sometimes give a glimpse into Moscow’s opaque power politics.
This week Medvedev did chin-ups in front of schoolchildren in southern Russia, which some media compared to Putin’s similar stunts such as swimming in Siberia or tagging tigers and whales.
The film, which the two leaders watched side by side in leather armchairs details the defence of a Soviet fortress in Brest, in current-day Belarus, from Nazi invaders in 1941.
Editing by Maria Golovnina