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Rootin' Tootin' Pitchman Putin

The Kremlin has released an English-language appeal by President Vladimir Putin as part of the Russian city of Yekaterinburg's bid to host Expo 2020.

The video coincides with a two-day meeting in Paris where aspiring host cities were making second-round pitches to the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE), which organizes World Expos.

Yekaterinburg's rivals for the event are Dubai, U.A.E.; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Izmir, Turkey. (Thailand's Ayutthaya has reportedly dropped out of the running.)

Lots of media suggest Dubai has the inside track, but the Russians scored notable victories in their bids for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the FIFA World Cup in 2018.

In the video spiel, Putin cites Russia's long history of involvement in World Expos, beginning with the first one, in London in 1851.

"But in all this time, Russia has not hosted the World Expo -- not once. Surely the time has come to change this," Putin says.

It's standard stuff. But the entire 2 1/2-minute pitch is delivered in wrenchingly stiff, painfully self-conscious English.

It's hardly an "Ich bin ein Berliner" moment. And it's not unprecedented.

However, the former KGB officer doesn't do a whole lot of public speaking outside his mother tongue (he addressed a "Guardian" reporter and Queen Elizabeth II in English, for instance, and famously crooned "Blueberry Hill" at a charity event).

Even his occasional appearances on the Russian state's English-language satellite television channel are conducted in Russian, as his latest RT interview earlier this week testifies.)

-- RFE/RL Central Newsroom

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