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.
Reuters/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin