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Russia celebrates Putin’s 60th birthday with fanfare

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MOSCOW (AP) — Kremlin officials like to insist that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not care for big birthday bashes and that he was to spend his 60th on Sunday quietly celebrating with close friends and family in his home city, St. Petersburg.

But the president's supporters don't appear to have received the memo, and so the day saw an unprecedented exhibition of Putin-idolatry reminiscent of some of the world's oddest cults of personality.

Much of it, like it the fawning, up-close-and-personal profile on Kremlin-friendly television channel NTV, looked like propaganda. Some of the praise was so extreme as to appear almost like a subtle form of satire on Mr. Putin's heroic representations in state media. And some Putin opponents used the occasion to poke fun.

Here is a brief look at ways Mr. Putin's 60th birthday was marked:

• Youths. The pro-government Mestniye youth movement held a sports contest in a central Moscow square under the slogan "Do Your Best for Putin." Organizers said the slogan symbolizes their gratitude for Mr. Putin's efforts to boost the popularity of sports by personally indulging in a healthy lifestyle. Over the years, Mr. Putin, a black-belt judoka, has been shown horse riding, swimming, scuba diving, playing ice hockey and indulging in outdoor hunting.

• TV profile. NTV broadcast a documentary purporting to describe the details of Mr. Putin's working life. The program showed his daily routine, which includes swimming and weightlifting exercises, a breakfast of porridge, the drive to work, and the late-night working sessions at the office. The program was laden with insights from Mr. Putin on the state of the opposition (poor) and the two-year jail sentence verdict against anti-government punk band Pussy Riot for their performance in a cathedral (fair).

• Paintings. An art exhibition titled "Putin: The Most Kind-Hearted Man in the World" opened in Moscow. The show features around a dozen paintings by artist Alexei Sergiyenko closely modeled on photos of some of the president's most memorable moments —riding a horse bare-chested, weeping at a celebration rally after his 2012 election victory and leading cranes in flight on a motorized hang-glider. Many of the paintings, apparently created in earnest, depict Mr. Putin's well-publicized fondness for animals and show him stroking a tiger cub, bottle-feeding a calf and pouting lovingly at a chick nestled in his hand.

• Peak Putin. Ten mountaineers scaled a 13,125-foot ridge in the southern republic of North Ossetia-Alania to erect a 13-by-20-foot portrait of the leader. Kazbek Khamitsayev, president of the republic's alpinist federation, said an official request had been lodged to rename the spot Peak Putin. The ex-Soviet Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan beat them to it in 2011, when it gave that name to one of its many mountains.

• Time to retire. A small group of people bearing mocking gifts assembled outside the presidential administration. A Facebook page titled "Time for Grandfather to Retire," created ahead of the quickly organized protest in Moscow, said presents for Mr. Putin's retirement could include anything, from money to Viagra pills. During the demonstration, many of the present-givers were bundled away by riot police, including one man carrying a pair of pajamas with stripes that made them look like a prison uniform.

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