Vladimir Putin usually appears to be the cool, poker-faced tough guy the KGB once trained him to be. But a somewhat different persona is on display in a video clip leaked by a Russian news agency Wednesday.
The edited video, taken at a meeting with Russian cabinet ministers and regional leaders after journalists had been ordered to switch off their cameras, shows Mr. Putin chewing out and cursing at officials for their failure to implement his presidential election promises.
"How are we working? The quality of work is extremely low," Putin told them. "If we're going to work like that then we'll achieve [nothing]."
He then threatened to sack them all.
"If we don’t do this, we will have to admit that either I’m not working effectively, or you all are working badly and you all should leave," Putin said. "I want to draw your attention to the fact that today I am leaning towards the second option."
Putin, whose locked-down lifestyle is so secretive that his wife is rarely seen in public and no one even knows where his two grown-up daughters live, seldom lets the public see his emotional side. But recently he did permit himself a flash of televised anger over delays and cost-overruns in the preparations for next year's Sochi Winter Games – to which he has staked his personal prestige and authorized expenditures of more than $50 billion.
The video of Putin lambasting his officials was published Wednesday on Lifenews.ru, an online tabloid that's usually Kremlin-friendly, leading some pundits to suggest that Putin may have actually wanted this outburst to be made public as well.
But Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told journalists that the Kremlin was furious over the leak.
"What was published from the closed part of the meeting is outrageous and unacceptable from an ethical point of view," Mr. Peskov said. "We plan in the near future to make contact with the leadership of the publication, to ask for an explanation."
The Putin who is usually seen on tightly controlled Russian TV is calm, magisterial, adventurous, likes to schmooze with celebrities, and is deeply concerned about the fates of endangered birds and animals.
Issues such as his opulent lifestyle – he enjoys the use of 20 lavish official residences, compared with just eight for the entire British royal family – and his habitual tardiness for almost any meeting are almost never touched upon in the Russian media.
Nor, at least until recently, were his occasional flashes of temper.