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Putin raised political eyebrows by announcing the appointment of Yana Lapikova, 25, as his personal photographer, sparking a frenzy of media interest in her pictures of fruit, cats and lingerie-clad models that have appeared on the internet.

Putin’s press secretary insisted that Lapikova – who was a contender for the 2008 Miss Moscow title – was selected purely on her photographic skills.

‘She is a really good photographer, and her modelling past is of no interest to us whatsoever because it’s not a crime,’ Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The news came as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev – a keen amateur himself – hired Katya Shtukina as his photographer of choice, reportedly presenting her with a high-end Canon DSLR camera to take his official shots.