Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday compared the country`s political opposition to omega animals, but said they were still "part of our species".
Putin flew with the Siberian Cranes ahead of this week`s APEC summit in Vladivostok city, boarding a motorised hang-glider dressed in a white costume and a beak-like mask to imitate a flock leader.
The flight was part of a programme to reintroduce the endangered birds to nature, teaching the human-bred creatures the correct migration routes.
The flight, however, turned into an unflattering Internet meme, with Russian bloggers cranking out a flurry of sarcastic comments and photoshopped pictures of Putin and the birds.
Opposition figure Ksenia Sobchak pointed out that only 63 percent of the cranes followed Putin about the same percentage as the number of people who voted for him in the Presidential Elections in March.
"Indeed, not all the cranes flew [after me]. Only the weak cranes stayed, and only on the first try," Putin quipped when asked about the comparison at a press conference at the APEC summit.
The phrase can be taken as a reference to the March Presidential vote, which Putin won amid mass protests and vote rigging accusations. He mostly avoided dialogue with the disorganised protesters and tightened political legislation after the elections.
"Some birdies don`t fly in flocks at all...but even if they`re not flocks members, they belong to our species, and need careful treatment when possible," Putin added, to general applause.