The "UFO " that hovered over the crowd protesting the questionably honest but inevitable re-election of Vladimir "Action Vlad" Putin to the Russian Presidency turned out to be just a radio-controlled remote taking pictures of the crowd for a citizen-journalist TV network.
Putin has worked so hard to craft his image as a man of action – the one always first in line to respond in manly ways to emergencies, wild animals or what is apparently an insatiable Russian appetite for pictures of 56-year-old men with their shirts off – it would have been more surprising to discover Putin controlling the tiny copter from some dark control room than it would have been to learn he'd had himself miniaturized so he could fit in the tiny spy copter and fly its missions in person.
Putin actually spent the last four years in the largely ceremonial role of prime minister – to which Medvedev appointed him after Putin resigned in 2008 after serving the maximum two consecutive terms as Russian president.
Putin livened up the wait between sessions on the Medvedev remote controller with a string of TV and other media appearances in which he seemed to be auditioning either for the next James Bond movie, or one of those Most Interesting Man In the World beer commercials.
As Action Vlad, Putin criscrossed Russia demonstrating his obsessive physical fitness and a range of macho, outdoorsy skills during photo opportunities in which he pulled off a series of increasingly unlikely feats, but demonstrated a lack of consistent ability to keep his shirt on his back.
"Action Vlad" Putin in The Most Interesting (publicity stunt-generated image of a) Man in Russia
Among Putin's most publicity-generating, least likely accomplishments:
- A July 2010 stint as copilot of an amphibious firefighting plane dumping water on widespread forest fires in Central Russia;
- Hunting Siberian tigers and polar bears (with tranquilizer darts, but he saved the TV crew when the tiger woke up);
- Hunting whales with a crossbow (missed three shots before penetrating far enough to plant the transponder);
- Fishing and horseback riding shirtless while entertaining Prince Albert of Monaco (which inspired a 'Putin goes fishing' doll);
- Piloting a mini-sub to the bottom of Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake;
- Discovering archeologically significant sixth-century ceramic jugs in full view of underwater television cameras he brought with him on an August dive in the Black Sea. The dive, one of Putin's first, generated news stories worldwide after the great man found the amphorae lying exposed on the sea floor almost immediately after submerging. His press secretary later admitted it was a hoax.
Putin also put out a Judo instructional tape in which he was shown defeating world champions. Falls in instructional tapes are regularly staged, even with celebrity "attackers," and Putin apparently has a legitimate black belt in Judo, so that stunt was self-aggrandizing but not all that unlikely.
Now that he's "won" the most recent presidential "election," Putin is almost certain to take over the presidency for at least another four years, despite a massive but inconsistent and so-far ineffective campaign to nullify the election over charges of fraud.
That means Action Vlad will be too busy in the Kremlin to venture out for more adventures, even one as exciting as changing into Tiny Vlad to take the mini spy copter for a little look-see around the walls of the Kremlin.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.