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Moscow CNN —  

In Russia, the release of calendars featuring photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin has become an annual ritual.

In past years, it’s been an occasion to showcase the Kremlin leader’s carefully managed image as a macho man of action. The calendars often feature the Russian President baring his chest, showing his prowess at the shooting range, or engaged in robust outdoor activities.

This year’s versions, however, take a markedly different tone. One focuses largely on images of Putin as an international statesman. No topless photos; the President is instead shown wearing a suit and tie.

The calendar's intended message appears to be that Putin is no longer isolated despite continuing international sanctions against Russia.
CNN
The calendar's intended message appears to be that Putin is no longer isolated despite continuing international sanctions against Russia.
The calendars are full of images of the self-assured leader in familiar poses -- and some surprises.
CNN
The calendars are full of images of the self-assured leader in familiar poses -- and some surprises.

The release of the 2020 calendars follows a year of diplomatic triumphs for Putin. Most recently, he hammered out a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to shape the endgame in the Syrian civil war. He also hosted embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose regime is roundly accused of violating human rights.

And of course, Putin just marked a big anniversary: 20 years at the top position of power in the Russian Federation.

The image of Putin as international statesman is the one in favor this year.
CNN
The image of Putin as international statesman is the one in favor this year.
The 2020 calendars show Putin's softer side.
CNN
The 2020 calendars show Putin's softer side.
The calendars highlight Putin's high-profile Russian diplomatic successes of the year, particularly in the Middle East.
CNN
The calendars highlight Putin's high-profile Russian diplomatic successes of the year, particularly in the Middle East.

But it’s not all suits and ties. One of the Putin calendars is devoted entirely to the Russian President’s love of animals.

Still, after two decades, Putin’s top-down style of rule is firmly in place. And the 2020 calendars broadcast a sort of subliminal message, particularly given the chaos roiling Washington amid an impeachment scandal.

This is still a strongman president, the calendars connote, no longer isolated despite continuing international sanctions against Russia – and with his softer side intact.