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You Mean It Was A Staged Photo-Op?

Vladimir Putin displays his "trophy" from an underwater Greek archaeological site in the southern Black Sea.

Vladimir Putin displays his "trophy" from an underwater Greek archaeological site in the southern Black Sea.

What a bummer. Just two months after Vladimir Putin channeled his inner Indiana Jones and dredged up from the Black Sea two valuable Greek amphora dating to the sixth century, his press secretary tells Russia's Dozhd TV that the whole thing was just a faked stunt.

"Look, Putin did not on that day find the amphora that had been lying there for thousands of years." Dmitry Peskov told the channel. "It's pretty obvious. There they were, cleaned up. Look, he didn't find them. Of course, they were found during an archealogical expedition several days or a week before."

We were beginning to think that perhaps the prime minister had missed his calling as a scholar of the classical world. Sure, he didn't have to look very far -- the water in which he was "diving" was about 6 feet deep -- but when the man has a couple of 1500-year-old pots on hand, who are we to quibble?

Now here comes Putin's stagehand to shatter our illusions. It turns out Putin's archaelogical prowess is as carefully managed as, well, everything else in Russian political life. "It's no big deal," Peskov said. "It's normal. It's not a pretext for malicious mirth, and so on."

Not malicious mirth, perhaps. But a good-natured laugh at how increasingly desperate Team Putin has become in fashioning an image of an ever-youthful and virile national leader? Why not? We'll leave the malice to the prime minister and his diving buddies.

-- Charles Dameron

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at