Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen riding a brown bear in medieval armour, cuddling a puppy and dressed as Santa Claus – it’s not his latest series of publicity photos, but rather artwork at a new Moscow exhibition focussed on Russia’s leader.
Coincidentally, the exhibition called ‘SUPERPUTIN’ opened on the day that he announced his bid for a fourth term as Russia’s president. It features around 30 paintings and sculptures of the Russian leader in a variety of different styles, all of which were made by Russian artists.
The Russian president made the announcement in a speech to workers at a car factory in the Volga city of Nizhny Novgorod.
“I will put forward my candidacy for the post of president of the Russian federation,” he said.
Putin has been in power since 2000, either as president or prime minister. If he wins the March election he will be eligible to serve until 2024.
Putin is popular with many Russians, who see him as a strong leader who has restored Russia's global standing with a decisive military intervention in the Syrian civil war and Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
But his critics accuse him of facilitating corruption and illegally annexing Crimea, which has led to international condemnation.
Putin is pitted against a number of candidates, including TV host Ksenia Sobchak, the daughter of late St Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who was Putin’s boss in the 1990s.
Another contender is Alexei Navalny, who previously intended to seek office before getting arrested in June. His conviction, which he calls politically motivated, bars him from running.