Vladimir Putin

When a bare-chested Vladimir Putin appeared in tabloids around the world last week, few could have predicted the stir the Russian president would make. From fitness gurus to Russia’s gay community, everyone weighed in on the photos—even a few Brokeback Mountain inspired photo captions made it to print.

An unlikely international sex symbol in just a week’s time, the Daily Mail is reporting that Putin has suddenly become the inspiration for men to start pumping iron, thanks to a headline in the Russian mass-market newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

The paper published a photo of the bare-chested president with the headline, "Be Like Putin". Alongside the picture, an illustrated a guide to the exercises needed to get a physique like the Russian leader.

According to the Daily Mail, the Websites was bombarded with messages from women declaring their love for Putin.

But the commentary wasn’t strictly limited to women. According to the Guardian Unlimited, gay chatrooms and blogs were particularly interested in the photos, with some commenting that by stripping to the waist, Putin was actually calling for increased tolerance in the gay community.

In Russia, gays and lesbians are still, for the most part, forced to remain closeted.

In one satirical photo, the 54-year-old leader is shown riding his horse in the Siberian mountain range. The photo has been likened to Brokeback Mountain with headlines encouraging Putin’s increased support of the gay community.

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