Fans Pledge Loyalty to Putin With Padlock

MTYoung people hanging a padlock on Luzhkov Bridge on Tuesday in a show of fidelity to the prime minister.
About 30 young people gathered in central Moscow on Tuesday to hang a "ring of political fidelity" to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Luzhkov Bridge and drink champagne to celebrate his 56th birthday.

Vladimir Putin Fan Club activists -- most of them high school students -- expressed their love for the former president by following the local tradition of hanging padlocks as a symbol of fidelity. It has become popular for newlyweds to come to Luzhkov Bridge and hang their locks on artificial metal trees as a sign of their intention to remain loyal to each other forever.

The club's leader, Igor Boiko, placed a big metal lock on a branch of one of the trees as a sign of political loyalty to one leader -- Vladimir Putin.

"We have just one leader and do not need any other," Boiko said.

The Vladimir Putin Fan Club is one of several different pro-Putin groups, all with their own ways of expressing their feelings. In a movement on the Internet called "Za Putina," or "For Putin," almost 95,000 people, including celebrities, have joined a Za Putina web site, with many putting their photos on the site.

The rally was not the only pro-Putin public gesture in recent days. On Sunday, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov renamed Prospekt Pobedy, the main street of Grozny, Prospekt Putina, or Putin's Avenue, in a ceremony marking 420 years of Russian and Chechen relations.

Putin himself does not encourage such overtures. His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Putin could not stop regional leaders from naming streets after him or people from hanging his portrait on their walls, despite the fact that he does not approve of it.