Russia's Putin revs up vote campaign astride a bike

NOVOROSSIYSK, Russia Mon Aug 29, 2011 6:11pm EDT

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rides with enthusiasts during his visit to a bike festival in the southern Russian city of Novorossiisk August 29, 2011. REUTERS/Ivan Sekretarev/Pool

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rides with enthusiasts during his visit to a bike festival in the southern Russian city of Novorossiisk August 29, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Ivan Sekretarev/Pool

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NOVOROSSIYSK, Russia (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin kicked off an election campaign on Monday revving up his three-wheeled Harley Davidson at the head of a bikers motorcade -- the latest in a series of macho stunts that have punctuated his political career.

Black-clad Putin, 58, called the bikers his "brothers" as he joined a festival aboard a Soviet-era warship in the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, held to mark the city's liberation during World War Two.

"I want to talk to you, brothers. It is cool that you do not forget the heroes of the past," said Putin. "Boys, girls you are great. Not only are you having fun while riding your bikes but you are also combining it with patriotic deeds."

Putin's United Russia party is hoping to secure a two-thirds majority in December's vote for the Duma lower house of parliament -- a margin that would give it the power to change the constitution.

Campaigning began in earnest after President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree on Monday setting the date for the poll as December 4.

The December election will also set the scene for a presidential poll in March 2012. Putin and Medvedev have not said who will run.

Putin's testosterone-fueled appearances have earned him the nickname "alpha-dog" in U.S. diplomatic cables. In the past he has been pictured sparring with his judo coach, flying a fighter jet and hunting Siberian tigers.

In Novorossiysk on Monday, he rode along as the hard-rock anthem of the "Night Wolves" biker club blared in the background. Club leader Alexander Zaldostanov, nicknamed "Surgeon," is one of Putin's friends.

During the event, Putin was flanked by veterans of World War Two and the conflicts in former Yugoslavia.

(Reporting by Gennady Novik, writing by Gleb Bryanski; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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Comments (25)
Pedro07 wrote:
I like him best showing his nipples whilst riding his horse

Aug 29, 2011 6:39pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
grover7 wrote:
Training wheels don’t do much for his macho image.

Aug 29, 2011 6:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
RBlaustein wrote:
Terrible reporting. If he is doing this “to secure a two-thirds majority in December’s vote for the Duma lower house of parliament — a margin that would give it the power to change the constitution”, don’t you think it might be important as to how he wants to change it?

Aug 29, 2011 7:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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