Putin in the Cockpit

PutinPlan081010.jpgIt’s certainly not the first time that Putin has staged a camera-friendly stunt to bolster his man-of-action image: Earlier today Putin flew up in a fire-fighting plane and took over the controls to drop water onto a raging forest fire below. But as he and other Russian officials face increasing attacks for failing to contain the fires, Putin’s approval ratings are dropping steadily — and could be now as low as 40 percent, according to some pollsters. Playing the hero on camera might no longer be enough. From an AP report:

Putin has been a very visible leader in the battle against the fires, which have caused billions of dollars in damage and left thousands homeless in the past two weeks. He has demanded that soldiers help overstretched firefighting brigades and has walked through smoldering villages, consoling residents and promising them new homes by fall.

But with his once sky-high approval ratings dropping — and sociologists warning that discontent could grow as the fires and a severe drought take their toll — Putin has not let up.

He took off Tuesday in a Be-200 firefighting plane and then moved into the copilot’s seat. Television footage showed him pushing a button to unleash water on blazing forest fires about 120 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Moscow.

After hitting the button, Putin glanced toward the pilot and asked, “Was that OK?”

The response: “A direct hit!”

(Photo:Alexey Nikolsky/AFP)