In pictures: The 12 Labours of... Putin

By Steve Rosenberg
BBC News, Moscow

Published
media captionRussian President Vladimir Putin as Hercules in a new art exhibition

In Greek mythology, Heracles, or Hercules, the son of Zeus, performed 12 labours: a dozen incredibly difficult and highly dangerous tasks.

But slaying the Neamean lion or battling the Lernaean hydra must have been a walk in the park, compared to what Vladimir Putin has had to deal with. At least, that's the impression you get from this bizarre exhibition.

image captionThe original 12 Labours of Hercules were acts of penance and toil performed by the Greek hero. To mark Vladimir Putin's 62nd birthday, Hercules' tasks have been given a Russian makeover. Mythical monsters have been replaced by modern monstrosities such as terrorism.
image captionMr Putin grapples with the multi-headed hydra... of Western sanctions. The EU, US, Canada and Japan imposed sanctions after accusing Russia of supplying separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine with heavy weapons and soldiers - an accusation Russia denies.
image captionMr Putin is depicted stopping Western intervention in Syria - a reference to Russia's veto at a UN Security Council vote in 2012. The exhibition has been organised by the Vladimir Putin Supporters Group on Facebook. The artists however, are a mystery.
image caption"They want to remain anonymous," explained one of the group's members, Mikhail Antonov, to the BBC. The images were a special birthday present for the president, he added. In this painting, Mr Putin fights off the horses of corruption.
image captionBut Herculean leadership isn't all about military prowess - or so these paintings seem to try to indicate. Here Mr Putin is celebrated as the hero of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
image captionDestroying the not-so-mythical "oligarch beasts". When Mr Putin came to power in 2000 he vowed to destroy Russia's oligarchs as a "class".
image captionThis painting of Mr Putin riding a fearsome Crimean ox refers to the peninsula's breakaway from Ukraine and annexation by Russia in March 2014.
image captionThe Mistral contract was a deal for delivery of warships from France to Russia worth 1.2bn euros. France suspended delivery of the first of the two ships because of Russia's actions in eastern Ukraine.
image captionThe South Stream pipeline is one of Russia's most powerful diplomatic pressure tools. Running across most of Europe from Russia, it feeds the region with a supply of gas that many countries rely upon.
image captionIn May 2014 Russia and China signed a landmark 30-year gas deal worth around $400bn. Here Mr Putin is credited with a trade victory.
image captionAs seen here, backing peace in Ukraine, Mr Putin is painted as a strong leader by the group. "We the people have trusted the leaders of Russia: the tsars, the emperors, or general secretaries of the Communist party," Mr Antonov told the BBC. "Vladimir Putin continues that tradition. He is a hero of the people."
image captionIn the final labour, Mr Putin is depicted as doing battle with his nemesis - the United States. With a domestic approval rating exceeding 80%, Vladimir Putin is currently enjoying the kind of popularity that Western politicians, maybe even Hercules himself, could only dream of.

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