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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

Putin dives into history

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's summer holidays have become the stuff of legend in the Russian media ­ and this year's photo opportunity took him to Ancient Greece.

The premier, noted for buffing up an action man image with summer stunts ranging from swimming Siberian rivers to riding with Russia's bikers, donned his scuba gear to dive into the Kerch Strait and explore the site of the so-called "Russian Atlantis".

Phanagoria, a city established by the Greeks on the Taman Peninsular in the 6th century BC, has been one of the country's archaeological hotspots for decades.

And Putin's Wednesday visit to Krasnodar Region marked plans to develop the tourist potential of early history, RIA Novosti reported.

"Mankind will be interested to learn that we have such riches," Putin said. "I believe people will come from all over the world."

About 100 billion rubles ($3.5 billion) will be earmarked for the purpose between 2012 and 2018 under a federal inbound tourism development program, Putin said, adding that inbound tourism was expected to rise 400%.

Big-money backing

The head of the archaeological expedition, Vladimir Kuznetsov, was keen to impress the importance of the site.

"By scale and value, this monument can be compared to a rich oil deposit. Archeology is not measured in money but Phanagoria's 'capitalization' is simply astronomical," he said.

And billionaire Oleg Deripaska is among those who are backing the future of the site ­ the Basic Element boss took over responsibility for security on the site five years ago, and has been supporting researchers both underwater and at the mysterious nearby burial mound Boyur-Gora.

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