The Russian President has been back in the international limelight since launching a bombing campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria last week, much to Washington's chagrin. The strikes followed Putin's first address at the United Nations General Assembly in a decade and ended a period of isolation over Moscow's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine last year.
Putin marked the occasion by holding a meeting with his defence minister before taking to the ice in the Olympic city of Sochi to play hockey with government officials and sports stars. Ordinary Russians and celebrities traditionally sing Putin's praises on his birthday, and this year was no exception, with rapper Timati releasing a new video clip extolling the return of his 'best friend' to the big stage.
"He is in charge, so everything will be according to plan," the lyrics say. "My best friend is back in the game," it mentioned.
The state-owned Rossiya 24 rolling news channel ran a ticker saying 'Vladimir Putin marks his 63rd birthday.' Supporters also rolled out a new exhibition of flattering paintings, depicting Putin in various heroic guises, including the black-clad Matrix protagonist Neo, the Buddha in lotus position, Che Guevara in his black beret and Mahatma Gandhi.
The 'Putin Universe' exhibition also shows him as artist Salvador Dali, space pioneer Yury Gagarin, sleuth Sherlock Holmes, comic book superheroes Batman and Hulk and even French saint Joan of Arc.

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