It's a rite as old as the hills.
The summertime photo op.
In pursuit of public affection, political leaders just about everywhere take a midsummer holiday and allow themselves to be photographed at leisure -- sometimes embarrassingly so
The goal is to impress upon their people the tirelessness of their efforts the rest of the year.
Democratic leaders are especially good at it, whether putting in a hard day's work at the ranch
or catching a wave in Hawaii
But it's a game that dictators and autocrats can play, too.
It might be North Korea's Kim Jong Of-The-Moment stiffly inspecting troops or doffing his hat to adoring crowds
at the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground. Or Belarus's President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, emblazoned with the no. 1, gliding to presumed victory on inline skates
. Or even an almost certainly doctored image of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev facing down his opponent
across the net in a tennis match.
But Vladimir Putin inevitably outshines them all, frequently donning outdoorwear, heading into the Russian outback, then shedding his outdoorwear
And the Kremlin spinmasters kicked it into high gear this week -- just one week after Putin braved the milder depths of the Gulf of Finland
-- offering up a new clutch of photos
showing outdoorsman Putin during his recent holiday in Tuva, in southern Siberia, where in addition to catching fish and rafting he spent some time with sidekick Dmitry Medvedev:
Russian state broadcaster RT even aired a video
of the Russian president landing a sizable pike on rod-and-reel from the waters of Tuva:
There was no word on whether Putin and Co. cooked up that fish (UPDATE: they did, says Reuters
) or it was just a catch-and-release -- a technique that rights and democracy advocates would certainly like to see extended to Kremlin critics currently languishing in jail
or appealing their prison sentences
UPDATE: Russian blogger Andrei Malgin cast doubt on the date of the incident, essentially suggesting
the whole fishing episode was recycled from 2007.
-- Andy Heil