Putin rides nuclear-capable bomber in apparent 'image bolstering' trip ahead of election

Russian President Vladimir Putin gets off a Tu-160M strategic bomber after a flight in the city of Kazan.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gets off a Tu-160M strategic bomber after a flight in the city of Kazan. Credit: AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin has flown on a nuclear-capable strategic bomber in an apparent move to bolster his image ahead of elections in the country next month.

The 71-year-old, who is running as an independent candidate, is all but certain to win the vote, having first assumed the presidency in 2000.

President Putin has led a ruthless crackdown on opposition to his rule, with the death of prisoner Alexei Navalny the latest in a long list of silenced Kremlin critics.

As part of the Kremlin's efforts to project an image of an action-loving and physically strong leader, President Putin has previously taken a co-pilot's seat in an amphibious plane, flew a paraglider and drove a racing car and heavy trucks.

His 30-minute flight in a Tu-160M supersonic aircraft on Thursday took off from an airfield in the city of Kazan - where such heavy bombers have been produced for decades.

The aircraft which President Putin flew on was one of the first revamped bombers, which has been equipped with new engines and avionics.

Speaking to reporters after the flight, he praised the new bomber as "excellent", noting that it features big improvements compared to the initial version.

It comes as President Putin was called a "crazy SOB" on Wednesday by US President Joe Biden, who himself is running a re-election campaign ahead of November's presidential election.

President Biden was talking about climate change when he said: "We have a crazy SOB like Putin and others, and we always have to worry about nuclear conflict, but the existential threat to humanity is climate."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the remarks "churlish", adding: "Clearly, Mr Biden behaves in the Hollywood cowboy style to serve internal political interests."

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