Putin puts birthday celebration on ice

  • 08/10/2015
Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in an ice hockey game (Reuters)
Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in an ice hockey game (Reuters)

Vladimir Putin has marked his 63rd birthday by dividing his attention between hockey and Syria as supporters sang his praises, comparing him to a range of heroic figures from Buddha to Batman.

The Russian President has been back in the international limelight since launching a bombing campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria last week, much to Washington's chagrin.

The strikes followed Putin's first address at the United Nations General Assembly in a decade, which ended a period of isolation over Moscow's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine last year.

Putin marked the occasion by holding a meeting with his defence minister before the two took to the ice in the Olympic city of Sochi to play hockey with government officials and NHL stars including Pavel Bure.

He scored seven goals, the Kremlin said, leading his team to a 15-10 win.

"Those who are moving with eyes on a victory, will certainly score it," he said in televised remarks as he opened the new season of the Night Ice Hockey League, which he helped put together.

In Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, where the Kremlin fought two wars against separatists over the past 20 years, Russian and Italian footballers played a match in Putin's honour.

In other greetings, rapper Timati released a new song and video clip extolling the return of his "best friend" to the big stage.

"He is in charge, so everything will be according to plan," the lyrics say. "My best friend is back in the game."

The video shows Timati performing in front of the Kremlin, surrounded by black-clad skateboarders with Putin masks.

"Vladimir Putin marks his 63rd birthday," a ticker on the state-owned Rossiya 24 rolling news channel read.

Supporters also rolled out a new exhibition of flattering paintings, depicting Putin in various heroic guises, including the black-clad Matrix protagonist Neo, the Buddha in lotus position, Che Guevara in his black beret and Mahatma Gandhi.

The "Putin Universe" exhibition also shows him as artist Salvador Dali, space pioneer Yury Gagarin, sleuth Sherlock Holmes, French leader Charles de Gaulle, comic book superheroes Batman and Hulk - and even French saint Joan of Arc.

"Vladimir Putin's character is the embodiment of heroism, fairness, slyness, intellect, courage and charm," the exhibition organisers said in a statement.

The Kremlin said Putin had received "numerous" birthday greetings, including from the heads of Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan.