Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his 63rd birthday in the snow on Wednesday, playing hockey with NHL stars against Russian officials and presidents.
Putin scored seven goals as NHL legends Vyacheslav Fedisov and Pavel Pure won 15-10. The opposing team includes Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Putin’s close friends – Presidents Jenny Timchenko and Arkady Rottenberg. The two imposed Western sanctions last year on relations with Putin following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. At the end of the game, Putin presented his team with a trophy and a medal for his contribution to hockey in Russia.
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In the afternoon, Shoaib explained to Putin about the Russian Air Force operation in Syria. When Russian television began broadcasting dramatic footage of Russian ship missiles fired from a warship in the Caspian Sea, Putin set foot on the ice of the Shayba Arena in Sochi for a live broadcast of Russian television.
Last year, Putin reportedly spent his birthday in the Siberian desert far away from populated areas.
In Moscow, Putin’s social media fan forum hosted an exhibition of portraits of Putin as various real and imaginary characters, including Che Guevara, Father Christmas, Jupiter and the Buddha.
In the Chechen capital, Grozny, officials held a football game with Italian players to celebrate Putin’s birthday. Organizers released a banner covering the entire football field:
“Best President. Happy Birthday!”