Russian President Vladimir Putin has piloted a motorized hang glider to lead a flock of young Siberian white cranes in flight.

Dressed in a white costume meant to imitate an adult crane, Mr Putin took part in a project to teach the endangered birds who were raised in captivity to follow the aircraft on their migration to Central Asia.

RIA-Novosti news agency reported that only one crane followed Mr Putin on his first flight, which he attributed to high winds that caused the hang glider to travel faster than usual. On the second flight, five birds followed Mr Putin, but after a few circles only two had stuck with him for the full 15-minute flight.

Mr Putin stopped off at the Kushavet ornithological research station on the Yamal Peninsula on Wednesday on his way to an international summit in Vladivostok.

Mr Putin has become alternately notorious and beloved for an array of adventurous stunts, including posing with a tiger cub and riding a horse bare-chested.

Some of the stunts, such as petting a polar bear tranquilized in the wild, have purported scientific connections. But Mr Putin last year was caught short when one of the events was revealed to be a set-up.

In that case, Mr Putin was shown scuba diving and bringing up fragments of ancient Greek amphorae. But his spokesman Dmitry Peskov later admitted the artifacts had been planted on the sea floor for Mr Putin to grab.

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