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Off Crimea, Putin Plunges Into Sea Of Memes

Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles before boarding a mini-submarine in the Black Sea, off the annexed Crimean peninsula.
Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles before boarding a mini-submarine in the Black Sea, off the annexed Crimean peninsula.

Russia's president submerges himself in Crimea's waters and the Internet reacts.

During his three-day visit to Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin talked tourism, politics, and minorities -- and went for a dive in a mini-submarine.

Putin and experts from the Russian Geographic Society dove to the wreck of a Byzantine ship from the 11th century just off the coast of Sevastopol, on the southern tip of the Ukrainian peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

It had been four years since the Russian leader last publicly submerged himself in the Black Sea -- in 2011 he "discovered" ancient Greek amphorae -- but Putin's adventures are an otherwise regular event.

Journalists even came up with a name for the futuristic orange and black mini-submarine, technically called a bathyscaphe.

Others pointed out acute similarities between Putin's plunge and certain Hollywood cliches.

"Man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free," French ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau once said.

However, someone wondered whether Putin wasn't looking for freedom in the Black Sea but rather for signs of the ruble. In recent days, the Russian currency has reached its lowest rate against the U.S. dollar in Moscow since February.

And it's not just the ruble. The price of oil, Russia's main export commodity, has declined sharply in the past year -- offering opportunities like this:

The Internet, it is sometimes said, never forgets.

In September 2000, less than a month after the Kursk submarine disaster that killed all 118 people on board, Putin was interviewed by talk-show host Larry King on CNN. "Tell me, what happened with the submarine?" asked King. "It sank," the young Putin replied.

In light of the Russian president's Black Sea adventure, Twitter users were quick to imagine a different scenario.

Some claim to see a connection between Putin's love for exploration in mini-subs and the recent anniversary of the Kursk tragedy, when officials were accused of acting slowly, maintaining secrecy, and a reluctance to accept international help that might have saved lives.

Others looked at the bigger picture. With a battle of sanctions between Russia and the West and an ongoing debate about a new Cold War between Washington and Moscow, some begrudgingly admitted that Putin may have the upper hand on his archrival.

About This Blog

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

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