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REUTERS, AP

Worldcrunch

Is it a bird? Or a plane? No, it’s just Vladimir Putin, taking time out of his busy Kremlin schedule to teach caged birds to fly.

The Russian President’s latest publicity stunt involved him doning a white costume and flying a motorized hang glider to help introduce into the wild a flock of young cranes born in captivity.

The exercise in the Yamal peninsula was aimed at prompting the birds to follow the plane and hence prepare them for their migratory route, as part of the "Flight of Hope" project to protect the endangered white Siberian Crane, Reuters reports.

This is quite literally a new high in the Russian President’s reputation as a bare-chested international show-off extraordinaire. Putin’s public image of an adventurous, James-Bond-like alpha male -- or "alpha dog", as he’s been described by foreign envoys in some of WikiLeaks’ diplomatic cables – is worth a closer look. Here are our Top Five Vanities of Vladimir:

5. Tiger wrestler

One of the highlights of Putin’s well-known love for wildlife happened in 2008, when he helped sedate an Amur tiger with a tranquiliser gun in Russia’s Ussuri national park.

4. Bare-chested fisherman

In August 2007, Vladimir Putin was shown fishing, riding horses, swimming and rafting in Tuva in southern Siberia – his bare chest spelling out "tough guy" for all to see.

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3. Treasure finder

On August 11, 2011, Putin took part in a scuba diving session at an archaeological site in southwestern Russia, and "miraculously" emerged with two millenia-old amphorae.

2. The whale tranquilizer

In late August 2010, Putin shot darts from a crossbow at a gray whale off Kamchatka Peninsula coast as part of an eco-tracking effort, all while balancing on a rubber boat in the open sea.

1. Kremlin's crooner

Beyond the Russian President’s notable physical feats, he can also sing and play the piano. Check out his cover of Fats Domino's Blueberry Hill at a charity concert in Saint Petersburg in December 2011.

Honorable mentions: Putin rescuing polar bears/snow leopards, Putin flying a military jet, Putin driving a Formula 1 car, Putin painting, Putin in a deepwater submersible, Putin riding a Harley Davidson, playing ice-hockey, practicing martial arts, etc., etc.

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[*Swabian - Germany]

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