He may strike fear in the hearts of dissidents and foreign leaders, but Russian President Vladimir Putin lost his heart Wednesday to a fluffy white puppy with black and brown markings.
Putin received a belated birthday gift from Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov — an alabai, a top Turkmen-bred variety of the Central Asian shepherd dog. The pup is named Verny, or Russian for "loyal."
Putin, who turned 65 over the weekend, cuddled Verny and kissed it on the head during a meeting in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
The pup joins the Kremlin kennel that already is home to a Bulgarian shepherd named Buffy, a gift from Bulgaria's premier, and an Akita named Yume, from a Japanese official.
Putin favorite Konnie, a black Labrador famous for terrifying German Chancellor Angela Merkel, died a few years ago. He was a present from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
The Central Asian shepherd dog is a multipurpose working dog native to Russia and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. The breed is used for a number of purposes, including livestock protection, dog fighting, personal and property protection, companionship and military work.