(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted an eight-year-old girl in the Kremlin on Tuesday and got her to join him in a bizarre phone call to his finance minister to ask for a budget grant for her home region.

The Kremlin released video of Putin welcoming the girl, Raisat Akipova, in the latest of a series of appearances since a brief armed mutiny last month that seem designed to show him as caring, concerned and in control.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov initially sounded bemused by the call and failed to respond to the girl’s greeting, but quickly agreed to the extra funding for her home region in southern Russia.

“Excellent!” Putin responded, before telling the girl: “We’ve got 5 billion roubles for Dagestan” – a sum equivalent to $55.6 million.

Putin chuckled with amusement during the conversation and a similar call that he made with Raisat to Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. The girl, holding a bouquet of flowers, thanked Siluanov when prompted by the president.

The visit was a sequel to a visit by Putin to Dagestan last week when, unusually, he mingled with a large crowd of people.

The Kremlin cited that as evidence of the president’s “astounding” support in Russian society, days after the brief mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group that had prompted him to warn of the risk of civil war in Russia.

Putin told Raisat he had invited her and her parents to Moscow because he had been “upset” by seeing a picture of her in tears after failing to get to see him during his Dagestan trip.

(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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