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Vladimir Putin Flies With Endangered Siberian Cranes

Once again, Russian President Vladimir Putin has thrown himself into an obscure outdoor adventure. This time he donned a white suit and goggles before taking off in an ultralight to guide six endangered Siberian Cranes through the air. Andrew E. Kramer's great article for The New York Times explains how the Russian leader's guiding flight fits fairly well into his awkward series of outdoor feats, which include riding a horse shirtless in Siberia and diving underwater to find two ancient Greek urns in the Black Sea (yes, it was staged). The Russian operation migration short hit YouTube on Wednesday.

It was not the only video of Putin released that day that may have led to guffaws. In a major television interview, Putin told RT TV, “I know what’s going on with Pussy Riot, but I am staying out of that.”

Pussy Riot is a three-woman band that performed a punk-prayer called “Our Lady, Chase Putin Out” in Moscow Christ the Savior Cathedral in February. They used footage of the event in an online music video, and later went to trial for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. When asked about how the women should be punished, Putin said their sentences should not be too harsh. (It was a statement that came off with less tenderness than the bird video, which isn't saying much.) Last month, the members of Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison. The prosecution was looking for three, which may make the Russian president sound thoughtful, but many bloggers and activists have pointed a finger at Putin's regime for influencing the case in the first place.

Whether Putin believed the bird escapade was a way to enhance his image as a leader or to soften people's perception of him is unclear, but The New York Times pointed out that one critic has used the video to knock the president on Twitter. Opposition activist Aleksei Navalny made a brief reference to powerful propaganda for Stalin, a story in which children were told that his light in the Kremlin was always burning because he was always thinking about them, before pointing out the absurdity of Putin's stunt.

“About Stalin they said, ‘In the night a light will burn in the window.’ And of Putin they will say, ‘He flew over our homes with a flock of cranes.’”

H/T: Jeff DelViscio

—Joe Spring

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