Fish tale or photo op? Russian bloggers are questioning the validity of an Internet video broadcast over the weekend that purports to show President Vladimir Putin wrestling with and catching a large pike fish during an alleged trip to Southern Siberia during the weekend of July 20.
“Vladimir Vladimirovich, be careful, she [the fish] can bite,” said Putin’s aide in the video. “I will bite her myself,” answered Putin, before kissing the fish and throwing it into a plastic container. “She is a beauty.” The video, released through the Kremlin, has observers wondering not only about the size of the catch but also whether Putin was actually in remote Siberia at all.
Russia’s defense minister Sergey Shoygu, who accompanied Putin on this trip, said the pike weighed between 12 and 15 kilograms (or, between 27 and 33 pounds). Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said the pike weighed even more -- 21 kilograms (or approximately 46 pounds). (Pikes are quite large fish; they can grow to a length of almost 5 feet and weigh up to 55 pounds.)
Given that fishing is a popular national sport in Russia, some rejected Peskov’s claims. “This pike weighs no more than [26.5 pounds],” one social network user wrote, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Unless it swallowed a bar of gold.” Another made a comparison between the weight of the pike and how elections are managed in Russia, making reference to recurring complaints about how Putin’s United Russia Party allegedly manipulates presidential and legislative elections. “The Kremlin must have weighed the pike the way they count the votes,” he wrote.
Even more bizarre, some Web users are wondering if Putin could physically have been in Siberia when the video was allegedly taken. A blogger named Andrei Malguine argued that the date could have been falsified as he showed that Putin, in the official photographs of the Siberian jaunt, is wearing the same clothes he sported during another fishing trip in 2007. Malguine also said that, based on Putin’s schedule (which is published online), it was doubtful he could have been in Southeast Siberia since he met with Russian athletes in Moscow (6,000 miles away) on July 19, according to the French newspaper Liberation. The blogger added that it would be "very unusual" for the president to do back and forth between the two places so quickly.
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But this is not the first time Putin has been lampooned on the Russian Internet for false and/or dubious claims. For example, two years ago, when he was scuba diving in the Black Sea, the president allegedly found two ancient Greek urns. The problem was that they were so clean that nobody could believe such a story.