Region: Blogosphere mocks Putin's stunt of helping cranes fly
Public attention distracted from corruption, opponents say
Posted: September 19, 2012
Russian President Vladimir Putin pilots a motorized hang glider while flying with cranes as he takes part in a scientific experiment as part of the "Flight of Hope" Sept. 5.
The beginning of September saw Russian bloggers and opinion leaders poke fun at President Vladimir Putin, after he piloted a motorized hang glider to direct a flock of Siberian cranes over the Yamal Peninsula. The stunt was a part of a science project aimed at showing critically endangered birds a route to Central Asia, where, according to RIA Novosti, "alternative wintering grounds - the world's first - are being created."
The blogosphere immediately responded to the stunt with a series of creative jokes, some of which made the president a hero of tongue-in-cheek comics and collages. Typical Twitter comments included the following:
@_marsi: "I'm Putin. I want to make no decisions, as I'm a crane."
@Moscow_advokat: "Finally, Putin's PR people got a new dealer!"
@sergeybuntman: "Is my understanding correct: Putin would return only in the spring?"
@Teddy_Raspberry: "Putin, with a beak and wearing whites, would appear in the new Angry Birds!"
@tsyplukhin: "Everyone jokes, everyone is funny. But no one thinks how hot it must be for the security officers to wear crane costumes."
Many opinion leaders said the president had participated in the stunt out of boredom.
"He acts just like a medieval ruler," said journalist Yulia Latynina, noting rulers of the past often saw power "only as a means for holding banquets, hunting and making gifts to their friends." In her program on the Echo of Moscow radio, Latynina also compared the president with legendary kings who were even able "to rule nature." The flight story "was very serious, as it showed us Putin's attitude to his power," the journalist concluded.
Putin's response to his mockers was: "Why don't they all try to fly themselves?"
Meanwhile, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty noted, "Putin has participated in a number of purportedly scientific adventures over the years, many involving wild animals and all enjoying abundant media coverage," adding that, "Putin's wildlife conservation efforts have often turned awry and sparked accusations of animal cruelty." But the reports that some birds have been injured or even died in connection with the president's stunt remain unconfirmed.
In fact, many Russians feel Putin did a great job attracting public attention to an important environmental problem. The feeling is shared by some in the U.S. Department of State. "Siberian cranes are a critically endangered species. And so President Putin has personal involvement in the issue," said deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell. "His personal involvement focuses much-needed international attention on the plight of these iconic migratory birds."
"We taught Siberian crane chicks raised in captivity to fly south for the winter," Putin boasted at the Apec summit in Vladivostok Sept. 8. "You show it to them once, and they are already flying. This is a more accurate navigation system than the GLONASS and GPS."
But some bloggers suggested the real purpose for the stunt was to distract public attention from important social issues such as corruption and a lack of reforms.
"We see the chief swindler having to dress as a crane in order to distract our attention from how much he and his gangsters stole to conduct the summit in Vladivostok," said influential social media activist Alexei Navalny during the protest in Moscow Sept. 15.
Russian media estimated the budget of the summit at approximately $21.75 billion, a sum exceeding the city of London's investment into this summer's Olympic Games.
Anton Taras can be reached at
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