On the same day that Vladimir Putin announced his bid for a fourth term as Russian president, a Moscow exhibition opened offering a fresh take on the decisive world leader.
Dubbed “SUPERPUTIN”, the exhibition features around 30 paintings and sculptures of the Russian leader in a variety of different situations, all of which were made by Russian artists.
Mr Putin was given a pop-art makeover, seen riding a brown bear in medieval armour, cuddling a puppy and even dressed as Santa Claus.
The exhibition runs from Wednesday in the UMAM museum in Moscow until January 15.
Mr Putin, 65, is expected to become the longest serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin after announcing he would seek re-election in March.
The former KGB officer has been in power, either as president or prime minister, since 2000. If he wins what an expected fourth presidential term he would be eligible to serve another six years until 2024, when he turns 72.
Mr Stalin led the then-Soviet Union for roughly 24 years until his death in 1953.
“I will put forward my candidacy for the post of president of the Russian Federation,” Mr Putin told an audience of workers at a car-making factory in the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod.
“There’s no better place or opportunity to put my candidacy forward. I’m sure that everything will work out for us.”
Mr Putin is lauded by allies as a father of the nation figure who has restored national pride and expanded Moscow’s global clout with interventions in Syria and Ukraine.
His critics accuse him of overseeing a corrupt authoritarian system and of illegally annexing Ukraine’s Crimea, a move that has isolated Russia.
The challenge for Putin is not other candidates – nobody looks capable of unseating him.
Instead, his toughest task will be to mobilise an electorate showing signs of apathy to ensure a high turnout, which in the tightly-controlled limits of the Russian political system, is seen to confer legitimacy.
If re-elected next year, Mr Putin will have to choose whether to leave Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister, or appoint someone else.
That decision will trigger a round of intrigue over the succession, as whoever holds the prime minister’s post is often viewed as the president’s heir apparent.
– with AAP