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Putin unrecognisable in shell suit with full head of hair in uncovered 1990s video

 (Yle Finland)
(Yle Finland)

Previously unseen home video footage shows a younger, untidy and awkward-looking Vladimir Putin socialising and playing table tennis during a visit to Finland around three decades ago.

The rare clip, obtained by Finnish outlet Yle, shows the future Russian president dressed in a shellsuit playing darts and eating with other guests at a hospitality venue near Helsinki.

According to sources spoken to by Yle, the Finnish broadcasting company, the video was shot around a May Day holiday in the early 90s.

At the time Putin, then around age 40 and becoming a major player in the St Petersburg political scene, was working as a KGB officer and had become an adviser to Anatoly Sobchak, then mayor of the Black Sea city.

Putin relaxes at a hospitality venue near Helsinki in previously unseen footage (Yle Finland)
Putin relaxes at a hospitality venue near Helsinki in previously unseen footage (Yle Finland)

Mr Sobchak is also seen in the clip along with his bodyguards and the party later goes fishing together.

On their return, a man can be heard shouting from the boat: “I cannot hear you - we have so much fish. We have so much fish that I cannot hear you.”

Putin is seen facing away from the camera with the hood of his coat up. The other men in the boat are facing in the direction of the filmer.

Throughout the video, Putin appears to be aware that he is being filmed but on occasion tries to turn his face away from the camera.

Putin (right) plays ping pong with other guests (Yle)
Putin (right) plays ping pong with other guests (Yle)
The Russian president is seen eating during a trip to Finland in the early 90s (Yle)
The Russian president is seen eating during a trip to Finland in the early 90s (Yle)

After the boat returns to shore, a woman is seen scaling the catch on a jetty next to the lake where the men had been fishing.

An eyewitness told Yle the woman was Putin’s then-wife Lyudmila. The outlet said it was unable to corroborate the account but confirmed that the Putin’s and their children - Maria and Katerina - were present.

Yle said the video was a far cry from the “macho, dictatorial image that Putin has since hewn for himself”.

”This is pre-rich Putin, Putin in a bad shell suit, with a bad haircut, bad vest, doing everyday dad stuff,” said Luke Harding, Russia expert and former Moscow correspondent for the British newspaper The Guardian.

”The most striking thing is he is smiling. He looks human, rather than the ghoul he has become,” says Mr Harding when shown excerpts of the video by Yle.