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In a Facebook post, the Adzhigardak resort said the statue was a “sign of gratitude for [Putin's] contribution to popularizing ski sports and a healthy lifestyle."

A life-size sculpture of President Vladimir Putin has appeared at a ski resort in the Urals region of Chelyabinsk.

MOSCOW -- Vladimir Putin is not only very much alive, he is also likely to remain Russia’s president until at least 2024 if, as is widely expected, he wins reelection next year to a fourth term.

But that hasn’t stopped the occasional statue popping up to immortalize the 65-year-old Russian leader and ex-KGB officer.

The latest likeness appeared this week in the form of a bronze, 180-centimeter-tall Putin holding skis at a winter resort in the Urals region of Chelyabinsk.

The statue appeared on November 9 as Putin traveled to the region to attend a Russian-Kazakh cooperation forum where he met Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

The Adzhigardak resort where the statue was raised posted photographs of it on Facebook, adding that the official unveiling ceremony will be held on November 25.

The Kremlin has carefully cultivated an image of Putin as an athletic tough guy, with photo ops famously showing the president throwing opponents in the judo ring, tranquilizing a charging tiger, posing shirtless outdoors, and swimming the butterfly stroke in a mountain river, among other things. Beefcakey Putin T-shirts and calendars are sold across the country.

However, the sculpture of Putin appeared to be a local initiative -- and a possible attempt to curry favor with the Kremlin. In the Facebook post, the resort said the statue was a “sign of gratitude for [Putin's] contribution to popularizing ski sports and a healthy lifestyle."

The sculptor was identified as Dmitry Kostylev from Chelyabinsk, who spoke to the Argumenty i Fakty newspaper: “The proposal to make a sculpture of the leader of the country was unexpected," Kostylev said. "It is a real responsibility to depict historic figures. The schedule for the work was tight. There was only 1 1/2 months.”

The statue appeared to get a mixed reception online. While many shared the news on Russia's VK social network, with apparent Putin fan groups writing "respect," one user drolly wrote: "Did Putin die?"

The sculpture is not the first of Vladimir Putin.

In December 2011, Zurab Tsereteli, a sculptor close to former Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and whose works dot the Russian capital, unveiled a sculpture of Putin in a judo kimono with his arms akimbo.

In 2015, a group of Cossacks unveiled a bust of Putin depicting him as a Roman emperor. The bust was located about 20 kilometers from St. Petersburg on territory belonging to the Cossacks.

A screen grab from a YouTube post by 10-year-old Alina in which she tearfully recounts how no one showed up at a meet-and-greet she had organized for her followers.

A Russian 10-year-old has won the hearts of compatriots with a poignant video about a party she threw that no one attended.

A young Russian girl who hosts her own YouTube channel has elicited a wave of sympathy with a post in which she tearfully recounts how no one showed up at a meet-and-greet she had organized for her followers.

The video by Alina, a 10-year-old girl from the city of Nizhnekamsk in the Russian republic of Tatarstan, has garnered more than 2.3 million views since it was posted on November 2 and triggered an outpouring of support from across the country.

In the clip, she says more than 20 followers of her YouTube channel -- titled Like TV Show -- had said they would come to the "fan meeting" she had planned earlier that day, but that no one came.

"I waited there for half an hour and no one showed up," she says with tears running down her cheeks. "I looked everywhere in the park, but there was no one. Please don't deceive me like that anymore. I'm very, very upset right now."

She adds that she had bought "lots of candy" and wanted to "ask riddles and hand out prizes."

"I thought we would have fun and take pictures, and I would finally get to see my friends and subscribers," Alina says.

Words Of Encouragement

Viewers weighed in with words of encouragement for Alina, telling her to hang in there and that they would love to attend one of her fan meetings. Her well-wishers included popular Russian video bloggers such as Yan Gordiyenko and Eldar Dzharakhov, each of whom has millions of followers on YouTube and Twitter.

Both Gordiyenko and Dzharakhov said on Twitter that they would like to travel to Nizhnekamsk to support Alina.

Predictably, arguments erupted in the comments section of the video about whether it was merely an attempt to "hype" Alina's YouTube channel, which jumped from 6,000 subscribers before the video was posted to nearly 190,000 by November 9.

Others noted that YouTube does not allow children under the age of 13 to create an account, while some wondered whether Alina was accompanied by her parents to the fan meeting she had arranged.

Alina has posted more than 90 videos on her channel since launching it in January. She has discussed arts and crafts, making microwave cheeseburgers, and brought on her younger sister for her show as well. She begins each episode by showing two thumbs up, a signature move she even delivered before she broke down in her viral video.

In a video she posted prior to the November 2 fan meeting, Alina excitedly spoke about her plans for the event and showed off the candy and prizes she was going to give away.

On November 7, Alina got an invitation from Russian volleyball star Yekaterina Gamova -- a two-time world champion -- to come to a joint fan meeting before a November 18 volleyball match in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan.

"I watched your video, and I want to tell you not to worry or get too upset," Gamova said, adding that the two would organize "a little party" for their fans, including candy and autographs.

Alina has posted two more episodes since the tearful video. In a November 8 clip, she said she wanted viewers to know that she is not planning to close her channel.

"I'm here. All is good with me. I'm alive and well," she said.

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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 transmission+rferl.org

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