President's Dancefloor Turn Startles Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- He's been dismissed by critics as a political waxwork, mocked by journalists for repeated verbal fumbles and described repeatedly in the Western press as barrel-chested.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych.

But Ukrainians on Monday got to see their pro-Kremlin president in a new light -- Viktor Yanukovych the dancer.

Footage taken at his 60th birthday celebrations at his official residence outside Kiev showed the president taking to the dance floor with some surprisingly nifty moves and an eye-catching succession of partners.

He dances with the daughter of former president Leonid Kuchma, and then a deputy chief of his administration. And then he swings his hips to a popular Jewish folk song in the company of a deputy from his party.

"Mr Yanukovych showed himself to be the dancer number one, and, according to witnesses, did not miss a single dance," enthused the Gazeta po-Kievski daily. "Couples dancing next to him had to make way."

Yanukovych can be seen waving his hands and covering a remarkable amount of space on the dance floor in his waltzes and tangos, cutting quite a contrast to his pillar-like immobility at official events.

The president, who won office earlier this year, has taken major steps to spruce up his image in recent years to compete with his great rival, the highly telegenic pro-Western opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

Popular news site Tabloid said the president even sung a song with guest Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov. The star guest at the celebration was Belgian-born singer Lara Fabian, Ukrainian media said.

Yanukovych's wife Lyudmilia, known for her modest lifestyle and concentration on charity work, was nowhere to be seen, the reports added.

Source: AFP