July 29, 2013 in Nation/World

Putin’s fish tale doesn’t add up for skeptics

Sergei L. Loiko Los Angeles Times
 
Associated Press photo

Russian President Vladimir Putin fishes July 20 during a break in Siberia.
(Full-size photo)

MOSCOW – The Russian Internet exploded over the weekend after the Kremlin posted a video on its website in which President Vladimir Putin, the phenom of the outdoor adventure photo-op, catches a big pike – a really, really big pike.

How big? That is a question that has consumed the Russian blogosphere, and led to an avalanche of humorous and sarcastic remarks.

In the video, Putin, dressed in a camouflage jacket and hat, lands (with the help of a military-clad assistant), a pike of prodigious size. As the president tries to raise the pike, the aide says: “Vladimir Vladimirovich, be careful, she can bite.”

“I will bite her myself,” says Putin, who then raises the pike, kisses it on the head and dumps it in a plastic container. “She is a beauty.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who accompanied Putin on the fishing trip to southeast Siberia, estimated that the fish weighed between 26 and 33 pounds. Putin’s spokesman insisted it weighed 46.

The response of the Russian blogosphere? No way.

“The Kremlin must have weighed the pike the way they count the votes,” one observer wrote in a wry reference to complaints that elections in Russia are manipulated.

Some political experts and Kremlin opponents often accuse Putin of turning daily news coverage into his own personal reality show.

In recent years, he has been photographed with a polar bear, a tiger and a snow leopard, shooting at a gray whale with a cross-bow and leading a flock of Siberian cranes in a glider. Earlier this month, he was shown in a submersible vessel diving to the remains of a sunken 19th-century frigate.

“Vladimir Putin loves to position himself not only as a tough (guy), which he really is, but as an ordinary man who deeply and sincerely loves nature and animals,” Kremlin adviser Sergei Markov said. “But I think it would kind of play better if he had caught a big pike, but not a giant pike.”

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