Putin pours scorn on his critics

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The Independent Online

President Vladimir Putin struck back yesterday at Russians who ridiculed his effort to lead young Siberian cranes in flight.

Like the youthful protesters on the streets of Moscow, some of the endangered birds refused to follow Mr Putin as he took off in a motorised hang glider.

"The ones that didn't fly were the weak cranes," Mr Putin said. He was comparing the wayward birds to discontented Russians who turned out in their thousands to protest against his 12-year rule.