Beaked Putin to fly with cranes on hang-glider

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MOSCOW (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly planning to put on a fake beak and fly a motorized hang-glider to lead a flock of endangered young Siberian white cranes on part of their migration to Asia.

The cranes, raised in captivity, do not know how to fly south, and environmentalists have to devise an imitation lead crane to show them the way.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax news agency Wednesday that the flight is to take place “one of these days.” He could not be reached by The Associated Press for elaboration.

The newspaper Vedomosti said it is expected before Putin chairs the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vladivostok beginning Friday.

Putin has become alternately notorious and beloved for an array of macho stunts, including posing with a tiger cub and riding a horse bare-chested.

Some of the stunts, such as petting a polar bear tranquilized in the wild, have purported scientific connections. But Putin last year was caught short when one of the events was revealed to be a set-up.

In that case, Putin was shown scuba diving and bringing up fragments of ancient Greek amphorae. But Peskov later admitted the artifacts had been planted on the sea floor for Putin to grab.

The stunts irritate Putin’s opponents, who regard them not as benign political entertainment but as part of an establishment of a cult of personality lionizing an authoritarian leader.

Masha Gessen, author of a book critical of Putin, left her post as editor of the travel and science magazine Vokrug Sveta (Around the World) this week, claiming she was fired for refusing to send a reporter 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) northwest of Moscow to Yamal Peninsula to cover Putin’s flight with the cranes.

A statement from the magazine Tuesday said she left by agreement with management because of “differences” on the separation of editorial and publishing powers.

Vokrug Sveta works closely with the Russian Geographical Society, whose board of trustees is chaired by Putin.

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