Putin Pulls Off His Latest Feat - Flying With Migratory Birds
Vladimir V. Putin is the unquestioned supreme leader of Russia, known for his icy stare and steely ways. But now Mr. Putin has taken on a new, perhaps more tender, leadership role. He has guided a flock of birds — through the air.
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Russia’s president piloted a motorized hang glider over an Arctic wilderness while leading six endangered Siberian cranes toward their winter habitat, as part of an operation called “The Flight of Hope,” his press office confirmed Wednesday.
While Mr. Putin recently has found some resistance to his stewardship at home, he found a more receptive crowd among his feathered followers. Experts say that when raised in captivity, these cranes quickly form bonds with figures they perceive as parents. That is a role, apparently, that Mr. Putin has been training for.
“For cranes, the parent is a man in a white robe,” Yuri Markin, the director of the game preserve that reared the chicks, told Russian News Service, a radio network. “They don’t remember a particular person. They remember the white robe and hood, or on the ultralight, a white helmet — and a special beak that is worn on the head.”
It was unclear if Mr. Putin wore the billowy, white costume, or donned the beak. Late Wednesday, the Interfax news agency reported that the president had flown three times in an ultralight aircraft at the Kushavet ornithological research station on the Yamal Peninsula, in the Arctic. On two flights, cranes followed him, the news agency reported.
A political cartoon started making the rounds early in the morning, showing resentful-looking cranes and Mr. Putin wearing cardboard wings, telling them: “Let’s assign roles right now. I’ll be the alpha crane!” Another, darker one went this way: Mr. Putin looked at the crane and said, “I will save you!” The crane looked at the president and thought, “Maybe I’d better die out.”