Russia's President Medvedev shows tough side by posing with machine gun

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday donned a military uniform and carried a machine gun to attend major military exercises in his latest bid to project a tough image.

Mr Medvedev peered through binoculars to watch exercises in Russia's western exclave of Kaliningrad, which borders the European Union and also examined a machine gun and other military equipment, television pictures showed.

He wore a naval forces jacket emblazoned with a badge reading "D.A. Medvedev, commander of the military forces of the Russian Federation" as well as a small Russian flag.

The exercises, a joint operation with neighbouring Belarus, have been taking place since September 8 and involve more than 12,000 troops.

Mr Medvedev in recent months has moved to burnish hardline credentials as Russia fights militants in the northern Caucasus, often using earthy language reminiscent of his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, Russia's prime minister.

The Russian army presented him with a special knife made of composite materials which Russian news agencies said was effective both underwater and on land.

"It can cut, it can chop and it sits very well in the hand," commented the president, flanked by Nikolai Makarov, Russia's top general.

However, Mr Medvedev emphasised that the exercises, which continue on Tuesday in Belarus, did not pose a threat to any country.

"I want to emphasise that our exercises have a defensive character. We are not threatening anyone," he said, according to Russian news agencies.

"We have not had this sort of military exercises for a long time. That they are taking place on such a scale now is reassuring."



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