While his nation waded deeper into the Syrian civil war, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, spent his 63rd birthday on the ice Wednesday, October 7, playing hockey with NHL stars and various Russian officials and tycoons in Sochi. For years, Russia's leader has cultivated a populist image in the Russian media.
Putin holds a cat as he inspects housing built for victims of wildfires in the village of Krasnopolye, in a region in southeastern Siberia, Russia, on Friday, September 4.
Putin, left, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev jokingly toast at a lunch during a meeting at the Black Sea resort in Sochi, Russia, on Sunday, August 30.
Putin exercises during his meeting with Medvedev on August 30.
Putin sits in a bathyscaphe as it plunges into the Black Sea along the coast of Sevastopol, Crimea, on Tuesday, August 18. Putin went underwater to see the wreckage of an ancient merchant ship that was found in the end of May.
Putin holds a Persian leopard cub in February 2014 at a breeding and rehabilitation center in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Perhaps the most important vote in Russia's public selection of a new Olympic mascot was cast when Putin said he wanted a funky leopard to represent the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.