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Last updated at 11:18 BST, Friday, 07 September 2012

High-flying president


7 September 2012

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has been keen to promote his image of man-of-action, taking part in all sorts of PR stunts over the past decade. But his latest project is sure to trump the rest. Just before the stunt took place, Sasha Schlichter reported for the BBC:


Sasha Schlichter


Flying Russian president


Click to hear the report


He famously fought bears, saved the Ussuriysk tiger, flew a fighter jet, put out forest fires from aboard a plane, and just happened to stumble upon two ancient Greek amphoras while performing a deep-sea dive.

But now Vladimir Putin is to embark on arguably his most bizarre stunt: flying at the head of a flock of endangered Siberian cranes. According to reports, this should happen in the Yamal Peninsula, in north-western Siberia, en route to the APEC summit. Mr Putin's spokesman has confirmed that his boss has been taking flying lessons, and that he'll be making a stopover at Yamal, but would not elaborate.

This is all part of the project 'Flight of Hope', where cranes, born in captivity, are helped by hang gliders to migrate to Central Asia to spend the winter. But this time, weather permitting, flying suspended under a huge wing, will be Russia's top VIP. Vladimir Putin will be leader of the pack, the Alpha Male, showing the birds the route.

For the flight, the Russian president will don a white robe, a helmet and a beak! Wildlife experts say this is necessary so that the birds recognise him as their leader. Since they are born in captivity, white robes would be the first thing they remember. During the flight, he's also supposed to emit some specific recognisable sounds.

Russia's very active blogger and twitter-sphere has, understandably, gone into overdrive, with people refusing to believe this is for real. Spoofs are coming in thick and fast, with one blogger announcing that Mr Putin is to lead next year, a shoal of endangered fish from the bay of St Petersburg, to a place where they can spawn in safety.


Click to hear the vocabulary


to stumble upon

to accidently discover

to embark

to start/to begin


strange or unusual


go into detail

born in captivity

born in a park or zoo

the alpha male

the individual in the group with the highest rank


put on

to emit

to send out


a state of heightened activity


humorous or funny made up stories