9 Putin publicity stunts that were absolutely absurd

Vladimir Putin is keen to portray himself as a patriotic strongman who will lead Russia to greatness on the world stage. To achieve this, he's taken part in various over-the-top, macho photo ops, many of which are reportedly his idea.

Putin hopes these images, cultivated since he became president in 1999, will "create connections" with his constituents in Russia, said Fiona Hill, who wrote a biography of the Russian president.

However, many of them don't really stand up to scrutiny — scroll down to see what they are.

Kicking ass in judo... against people who hardly fight back.

Even though Putin has a judo black belt, there's no evidence that he's been publicly challenged by a decent opponent.

Benjamin Wittes, an editor at Lawfare blog and judo enthusiast, called the Russian president a "fraud martial artist" who "only fights people who are in his power."

"Discovering" fragments of two ancient Greek urns under the Black Sea — which his spokesman later admitted were planted.

Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Pool/Reuters

Putin found the artefacts in the six-feet-deep, clear water and announced "the boys and I found them," according to The Guardian. Journalists proceeded to ridicule the photo op.

Two months later, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov admitted on the Dozhd TV channel:

"Of course they were found in the course of an expedition several weeks or days earlier. Of course they were left there or placed there. It's completely normal.

"There's no reason to gloat about this and everything else."

Showing off his soccer skills with FIFA President Gianni Infantino at the Kremlin... with the help of some careful editing.

Notice how the video cuts out before Putin receives the ball, and crops in close so you can't see what's just happened. Infantino's skills are clear, but Putin's rather less so.

The video was part of a PR push to promot the 2018 soccer World Cup, which is being held in Russia. Russian embassies have started displaying soccer in prominent places too.

Working out at a gym... without actually lifting much.

The video shows Putin on various machines — but lifting pretty trivial amounts of weight.

The Russian president is keen to emphasise how fit he is. In a press forum in Kaliningrad earlier in March, he said he exercises in the morning "all the time."

Scoring eight ice hockey goals against retired NHL players... who all skated at least a foot away from him.

This is one of many hockey matches Putin has participated in.

According to Fiona Hill, the Putin biographer, the Russian president actually doesn't know how to skate and enlisted an ice hockey player before these stunts.

Riding with a Russian motorcycle club known as the Night Wolves alongside its leader, "the Surgeon"... really slowly.

The group is tightly linked to the Kremlin's political agenda, and in 2014 travelled to Crimea to support pro-Russian separatist militias in the war.

Many media outlets, including The Guardian and Rolling Stone, nicknamed the Night Wolves "Putin's Angels."

Leading endangered birds to safety on a hang glider... even though they don't need help finding their way.

Photo Credit: Getty

This garnered a large amount of ridicule from the press.

Julia Ioffe, a reporter for The New Republic at the time, said after the photo was published: "He is seen as a ridiculous man, deeply out of touch not only with the political reality, but with reality in any wider sense of the word."

Playing a few notes on a piano while waiting to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. You can decide for yourself whether he's good.

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