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Ukraine war: Vladimir Putin gets a tractor for his 70th birthday

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Image source, President of Republic of Belarus

A tractor is one of the odder gifts for Vladimir Putin, as Russia’s president, a pariah in the West since his invasion of Ukraine, turns 70.

It was given him by his Belarusian ally, Alexander Lukashenko, whose country boasts a tractor works.

Mr Lukashenko confirmed the news as he visited his fellow strongman’s home city, St Petersburg, for talks.

Mr Putin was hosting other leaders of ex-Soviet states as the war fanned by his invasion raged.

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Faced with successful Ukrainian counter-attacks, he hinted at problems this week, describing the situation in regions he recently annexed as “restive”.

But on Friday, his allies lavished praise and gifts on the man who has led Russia, whether as president or prime minister, for more than two decades.

Mr Lukashenko, Europe’s self-styled “last dictator” who has been in power even longer than the Russian leader (since 1994) and whose administration is also under Western sanctions, came to St Petersburg with a gift certificate for the Belarusian-made vehicle.

The Minsk Tractor Works is the flagship of Belarusian industry.

It was not immediately clear how Mr Putin responded to the big-wheeled gift, which had to compete with mountains of melons and watermelons from Tajikistan’s President, Emomali Rahmon.

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However, it is a fact that Mr Putin has been frequently seen in tractors for some years now.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and the German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (R) poses in a Fendt tractor cabin at the opening of the Hanover Fair 2005, a trade fair for industrial technology at the Congress Centrum April 11, 2005 in Hanover, Germany.

Image source, Getty Images

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) sits in the cabin of a tractor during his visit to the city of Tambov, some 480 km (298 miles) south of Moscow on July 2, 2010.

Image source, AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) examines a tractor simulator while visiting a tractor plant of Rostselmash on February 1, 2018 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

Image source, Getty Images

Along with the gifts came praise for Mr Putin for “transforming the image of Russia, strengthening its sovereignty and its defence capability, and protecting its national interests”, in the words of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.

“The number one patriot in the world” was how Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s Moscow-backed leader, put it.

Further afield, but dealing with similar international isolation, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un congratulated the man in the Kremlin for “crushing the challenges and threats of the United States”.

Mr Putin’s enemies used the occasion of his birthday again to depict him as a war criminal trying to destroy another country while ruining his own.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov called on Russia’s military to reject him and refuse to fight his war, saying Mr Putin was “hiding in a bunker rather than standing” with his soldiers.

Some social media users noted the irony of Mr Lukashenko’s gift to Mr Putin: the humble tractor became an early symbol of Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion after farmers were seen towing away abandoned military vehicles.

In the Czech capital, Prague, demonstrators mocked Russia’s president with a giant dummy depicting him as a naked emperor sitting on a golden toilet.

Putin dummy in Prague, 7 October

Image source, Reuters

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