Russia marks president's 60th birthday with media fanfare
MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's President Vladimir Putin turned 60 on Sunday, the official retirement age in the country he has dominated for the past 12 years, as critics snickered that his image of an energetic, young macho leader no longer corresponds with his age.
Mr Putin flew to his native north-western city of Saint Petersburg to spend the day with "friends and family", according to his spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
However his supporters went out of their way to wish him the best, and his birthday figured prominently in each newscast of the day on Russia's state television channels.
"Your name is a symbol of a wise politician and a strong leader in Russia and the world," Saint Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko wrote to the president in an open letter. "You returned to Russians their confidence in tomorrow." An exhibition dedicated to Putin, called "A Man of the Kindest Soul", was opening on Sunday in a Moscow art centre. Black Labradors, the same breed of dog as Mr Putin's pet Connie, were expected at the show.