The video: Is Vladimir Putin undergoing an image makeover? The tough-guy Russian prime minister is known for publicity stunts that showcase his machismo, including "shirtless horseback riding, co-piloting a firefighting plane, and sparring with the national judo team." But lately, Putin's "soft side" has been on display. First, he held a nationwide contest to name a puppy he received as a gift from his Bulgarian counterpart. Then, on Sunday, Putin performed an "epic" version of the Fats Domino classic "Blueberry Hill" at a children's charity dinner in St. Petersburg. At the end of the four-plus minute routine, the crowd, which included Sharon Stone, Kevin Costner, and other American celebrities, gave Putin a standing ovation — and his performance quickly became a smash hit online.
The reaction: "Watch out, Justin Bieber," says Jenni Dunning at The Toronto Star. Putin is "a new pop sensation" — although there is no denying his performance was "just plain weird." The prime minister's thickly accented English made the chorus sound more like ""Blyubirry Kheel", says Shaun Walker at The Independent. But he did manage to "hit all the notes." The event organizers insisted the whole thing was impromptu; it was more likely "a well-rehearsed publicity move" meant to solidify Putin's reputation as a "talented superman." Watch Putin sing "Blueberry Hill":