For me, this is just Putin being Putin, following a pattern established in the months just before he endorsed Medvedev to be his successor. Indeed, in August 2007 Putin bared his torso on a fishing trip with the Prince of Monaco, and in September 2007 he made out with a sturgeon. In August 2008, the PM shot a tiger with tranquilizing dart and in August 2009 he was baring that infamous torso again. So, one week out from August, maybe Putin is just getting a head start (note: I addressed the darker sides of August in Russia here, just months before the Russo-Georgian War in August 2008).
Here’s what Putin was up to this weekend:
Saturday: Putin rode in on a “tricked out bike” (навороченная машина) – his words, not mine – to what is apparently a kind of Sturgis Rally in Sevastopol, Ukraine. The bike was “tricked out” in that it had three wheels, making it look more suitable for an obese retiree than a robust judo practitioner (his legs can’t reach, okay?!). Putin claimed the bike was a Harley-Davidson but it looked more like a Goldwing. Below is a video of Putin’s comments with English subtitles:
Sunday: Putin spoke about his meeting with the deep-cover spies recently returned from the U.S.A. Putin made several interesting remarks here. First, he claimed that he sang karaoke – nay, to a live band – with his fellow former spies. In Putin’s defense, this was in response to a question from a journalist – I guess the spies let it slip that they were singing. One of the patriotic songs they sang – From Where the Motherland Begins (С Чего Начинается Родина), which you can listen to here. You can just picture Putin and a couple silovik lackeys, drunk and misty-eyed, churning out this ballad while the Americanized spies stare on in horror, with images of Best Buy and Cheesecake Factory fresh in their minds. More interesting, however, was Putin’s statement that the spies were discovered because of a traitor, who will soon “end up a drunk or drug addict in a ditch.” Putin said that Medvedev already stated that a traitor betrayed the spies, but I do not remember and cannot find where or when he said this – please illuminate in the comments if possible. Here is Putin’s comments regarding the spies:
Update: here is Kommersant’s take on Putin’s weekend via the intrepid and always-amusing Andrei Kolesnikov.