On Sunday, the Kremlin released a strange, awkward video of Russian President Vladimir Putin working out with Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev. The camera follows the two men silently lifting weights in a sun-dappled pavilion at the Bocharov Ruchei government residence in Sochi, going from exercise to exercise on the kind of self-balancing weight machines that your CrossFit-obsessed friends are always making fun of.
The decision to release footage of the most powerful man in Russia frowning through a set of calf raises in unflattering sweatpants might seem, to a casual observer, odd. But this is all part of the long-running and quite carefully scripted Putin Adventure public affairs strategy. It follows years of other photo ops and staged videos that are basically official Putin fan fiction. He subdues tigers, rides horses, and communes with dolphins! He pilots tiny submarines and flies tiny aircraft! Kids and dogs love him! Also sometimes he performs dentistry!