London: Speculation is rife that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin may have had cosmetic surgery to look younger ahead of his bid to return to the top job of president next March.
The 59-year-old's taut and wrinkle-free appearance on a TV show yesterday set micro-blogging site 'Twitter' abuzz with rumours that he has gone under the knife.
In fact, that many ordinary Russians believe Putin has had cosmetic surgery became clear when the Russian word for "Botox" became one of the most popular words used on Twitter, the media reported.
Eagle-eyed observers have suggested on Twitter that Putin's face has become suspiciously smooth and that the skin around his eyes is almost totally clear of bags and wrinkles which were visible just a decade ago.
Of late, the Russian Prime Minister has been carefully cultivating his macho image -- riding a horse bare-chested, tracking tigers, and flying a fighter jet. He has been photographed fishing bare-chested in Russia's Altai region, and was shown on TV diving into an icy river and swimming the butterfly stroke.
Last year, he attached a satellite-tracking collar on a tranquilised polar bear. He also had shot a Siberian tiger with a tranquiliser gun and released leopards into a wildlife sanctuary.