Left Field: Ex-KGB Mastermind Disguises Himself As Bird

He leads Russia with an iron fist, but Putin is willing to strap on a beak to help endangered cranes

By Vernon Felton

You can’t make this shit up.

Let’s say you run a massive nation and that you have a background in covert operations. And let’s say that people who criticize you sometimes find themselves in prison or, well, suddenly no longer breathing.

You’re an incredibly powerful man with a lot on your plate—there are bribes to be taken, adversaries to be crushed—the whole busy-despot thing can be so fatiguing. And then there’s this: no one gets to see the sensitive side of you. That’s what really hurts.

Look, it’s not like you enjoy poisoning people who criticize you. It’s not as if you wanted to toss Pussy Riot in jail. It’s just that in your line of work, people rarely get to see your soft, gooey and sensitive core.

So how do you show your nation that you’re more than the just another iron-willed, Stalin-come-lately leader?

You dress up as a bird and teach a flock of endangered Siberian cranes how to migrate to Asia.

Of course! Cranes! Why didn’t this occur to you years ago?

It’s brilliant.

Or fuckin’ crazy.

But true.

Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, climbed into a baggy, white suit (it’s not clear if Putin also wore a prosthetic beak, though initial reports suggested he would) and co-piloted an ultralight aircraft in an attempt to show a flock of Siberian white cranes how to migrate to Asia. The cranes in question were raised in captivity and are still a little hazy on the whole “fly south” thing. The white suit reportedly led the cranes to consider Putin their parent.

Putin, of course, was just the man to show them how to get the job done. This is a guy who cuddles with polar bears, tranquilizes tigers and saves baby seals from being clubbed. Again, I’m not making any of this up.

Flying with geese in a shameless imitation of a children’s movie? When you’re Putin, it just makes sense.