- 09 сентября 2012, 15:42
Vladimir Putin defends himself at summit after rare Siberian cranes appear to shun him in Arctic hang-gliding stunt
The sight of Vladimir Putin decked out in white overalls and playing the parent to a group of rare Siberian cranes in the skies above the Russian Arctic last week proved an opportunity too good to miss for the country's opposition movement.
Commentators were particularly delighted to point out that many of the endangered birds appeared reluctant to be associated with Putin during Thursday's stunt and avoided forming up alongside his motorised hang-glider on his first flight.
But Putin reached for his extended metaphor supply on Saturday to hit back at those who had been ridiculing him. "It's true that not all of the cranes took to the air at first," a grinning Putin said during the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Forum. "The ones that didn't fly were the weak ones."
The Russian president did not seem to be put off by the autocratic insinuations of many of his critics, and embraced the caricature of an "alpha-crane" that had been a popular joke in the previous days. "That not all the cranes flew straightaway is also the fault of the leader, the pilot, because he increased the speed and the height too quickly and they simply couldn't keep up," Putin said.
"Under conditions of bad weather and side winds, the pilot was forced to increase the speed and height because otherwise the system could have capsized ... there are little birds who never want to fly with the flock."