Putin on the birds: 'Only the weak ones didn't follow' me
Speaking at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin talked of leading a flock of birds and got in a veiled dig at voters who spurned him.
This year's Russian-hosted summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) wrapped up in Vladivostok Sunday, with leaders of the 21-member Pacific Rim group – which accounts for 40 percent of the world's trade – pledging to promote freer regional commerce as a buffer against a lingering global crisis and financial woes in the Eurozone.Skip to next paragraph
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The host, President Vladimir Putin, declared the week-long meeting a complete success. "We managed not only to preserve the continuity of APEC activities, but to set new horizons and most importantly give a positive signal to business circles," he told the final news conference Sunday.
He was responding to a question about the overwhelmingly derisive public reaction to his televised PR stunt last week, in which he dressed up like an endangered Siberian crane, mounted a motorized hang glider, and led a group of the captivity-raised birds onto their correct migratory path.
Among the multitude of jokes that spawned in the wake of that performance was TV hostess and opposition leader Ksenia Sobchak's jibe that actually "only 63 percent of the cranes followed him" – the same percentage that voted for Putin in March presidential polls.
Putin's response instantly lit up the Russian Internet, and will probably have commentators scratching their heads for at least the next few days: "Indeed, not all of the cranes followed me. Only the weak ones didn't follow," he said, leaving little doubt that he was working with Ms. Sobchak's metaphor.
"There are certain birds that do not fly in flocks," he went on. "They prefer to nest separately.... Even if they are not members of the flock, they are members of our population, and they have to be treated carefully – of course, to the extent that this is possible."