If there was an award for the political art of providing media photo opportunities it would surely be no contest. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would win hands down. The man who is expected to reclaim his former job as the country's President at the next election has mastered the art of using television to cultivate the image, as the Moscow Times put it this week "a rugged leader beloved by the Russian people."
This week he was perched precariously aboard a rubber boat in choppy waters firing darts from a crossbow at a gray whale off the Pacific coast to collect skin samples from a whale. Last week he was co-piloting a fire fighting aircraft not long after being photographed fishing bare-chested in the Altai republic, and shown on television diving into an icy river and swimming the butterfly stroke. Back in April the macho Putin attached a satellite-tracking collar onto a tranquilized polar bear, shooting a Siberian tiger with a tranquilizer gun and releasing leopards into a wildlife sanctuary.
It makes bike riding and surfing look pretty tame really.