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Vladimir Putin left red-faced after test drive in new Lada stalls

Vladimir Putin's latest attempt to promote Russia's much-maligned Lada car backfired yesterday after the new model he was given to test drive in front of the country's media failed to start.

The prime minister (58) has regularly plugged the struggling Russian brand. He owns a military-style Lada 4X4, and last summer drove a canary yellow Lada across Russia's Far East.

His latest stunt backfired badly when he got behind the wheel of a new Lada Granta and repeatedly failed to start the engine. Video footage of the incident showed Mr Putin anxiously trying to start the cherry-coloured Lada but failing at least five times.

Reporters at the Lada factory in the Russian town of Togliatti, said Mr Putin also struggled to open the car's boot. At least two executives had to help him.

Mr Putin later said he was at fault for failing to start the Lada Granta, which he said was a "good car".

The vehicle will cost almost ?5,800 when it is released later this year.

Mr Putin is intent on convincing the world that Russia is open for business. Earlier yesterday he said his government would pay Russian arms manufacturers up front to fulfil major contracts to equip Russian troops with new weapons.

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Russia has promised to spend between 19 and 20 trillion roubles (?480bn) over the next 10 years to renew its outdated armaments.

President Dmitry Medvedev scolded the defence ministry and arms manufacturers on Tuesday for failing to deliver weaponry the military needed.

Following Mr Medvedev's criticism, Mr Putin promised to pay arms makers up to 100pc of order prices ahead of delivery to support Russia's defence industry.

Despite its status as the world's second-largest arms exporter, military analysts say Russia's defence industry had stagnated since the collapse of the Soviet Union, relying on outdated designs.

In 2009, Mr Medvedev signed off on orders for 30 ballistic missiles, five Iskander short-range missile systems, 300 armoured vehicles, 30 helicopters, three atomic submarines and a corvette class warship.

The industry's shortfalls and the need for an overhaul of the army's own ageing hardware were exposed during Russia's five-day war with Georgia in 2008 and by the economic crisis of 2009.

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