Putin in hang glider leads Siberian crane flock in migratory flight

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Putin in hang glider leads Siberian crane flock in migratory flight
Vladimir Putin pulled off another of his bizzare stunts when he led a flock of young Siberian white cranes in flight, living up to his action-man image, even as reports said that endangered chicks had died while scientists were setting up the trip. Dressed in a white costume meant to imitate an adult crane, the Russian president was taking part in a project to teach the endangered birds that were raised in captivity to follow the aircraft on their southern migration to Central Asia. Putin has won many admirers with his feats, that have left others less than impressed, starting from 2000 when he flew into Chechnya in the back seat of a fighter jet. He followed it up over the years, with a bare-chested horseback ride through mountains, a Formula One race car drive and piloting a firefighting plane to dump water on wildfires. The flight in the hang glider though hardly cut any ice with the cranes as only one bird followed Putin on his first flight. He attributed it to high winds that caused the hang glider to travel faster than the birds, RIA Novosti news agency reported. He was followed by five birds in his next flight, but after a few circles only two stuck with him through the 15-minute flight. Putin took time off to visit the Kushavet ornithological research station on the Yamal Peninsula in the Russian Arctic on Wednesday on his way to an international summit in Vladivostok, on Russia's Pacific coast. At the station, he set off with a pilot, who sat behind him on the hang glider, as they took the birds for a spin. It was a scene on the lines of one in the 1996 movie Fly Away Home, in which an estranged father and daughter use an ultralight plane to help a flock of geese migrate. The movie though, depicted the efforts of a real-life Canadian, who spent a decade teaching orphaned geese how to fly south. Putin's efforts had an altogether undesired side effect, as a biology student at the station claimed online that two chick cranes died and several others were hurt
in the rush to ready for Putin's arrival. ''One of the chicks got into a hang glider's propeller while training and waiting for Putin," Mariya Goncharova wrote on her page on the Russian social networking website, vk.ru. ''One more broke a beak and stripped its claws off on bad netting, and many simply flayed themselves'' during their transport in boxes to the flight venue. According to Russian biologists less than 20 Western Siberian white cranes are left in the wild worldwide. Putin's flight spun off many a contemptuous joke on the internet though, one of the most popular being ''So Putin is off to wintering with cranes. Does this mean he's not going to be back before spring?'' Putin who is a month short of his 60th birthday, has cultivated an image as an animal lover during his time at the top of Russian politics, even getting a tiger cub as a birthday present. During a televised phone-in last year, when he was prime minister, replying to a viewer who asked him why he looked more comfortable with tigers and leopards than with his own ministers, he said, "The more I know people, the more I like dogs," paraphrasing the greek philosopher Diogenes. "I simply like animals." Putin's stunts have not gone down well with many and there was widespread disbelief in 2008 when he appeared to save a television crew from a rare Amur tiger in far eastern Russia by shooting it with a tranquilliser gun. The Kremlin's press service was also forced to admit the set up which showed footage and photographs of Putin striding away from a dive in the Black Sea after having recovered Greek amphorae was a set up, with the jars having been planted on the sea floor. A row about Putin's date with the endangered cranes had already erupted before the official confirmation of the stunt. Masha Gessen, chief editor of Russia's oldest scientific magazine, Vokrug Sveta, resigned on Monday after she resisted pressure to send a reporter to cover the event. "I'm leaving Vokrug Sveta thanks to Putin for that", Gessen tweeted later that day. She added she considered the request to publish material about Putin's involvement with the Siberian white cranes as "editorial interference". The outspoken journalist has also authored a critical biography of Putin that was released last year titled. Source: Article, Image: flickr.com

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