High emotion, cold calculation or just brought on by the wind? The moment when Vladimir Putin shed tears became such a talking point in Russia Monday that it even led to naming a protest.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny coined the slogan "Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears" for the mass anti-Putin rally set for Monday evening, using the title of an Oscar-winning Soviet melodrama.
The perennially popular 1979 film by director Vladimir Menshov tells the story of a group of women friends. By curious coincidence, the three-hour film was shown by state television on election day Sunday and Monday night.
"The armed forces are guarding the stolen votes. Public sector workers are grimly silent as they cheer 'We won!'" Navalny wrote darkly on his blog of Putin's election triumph.
"It's enough to make anyone cry," he added.
Putin clearly had tears running down his face as he appeared in front of tens of thousands of people outside the Kremlin to celebrate his victory in presidential elections. He later said his wet eyes were brought on by the wind.
Putin's detractors riffed on "crocodile tears" and "Botox tears" on Twitter, referring to suspicions that the Russian strongman, 59, has had cosmetic injections to keep him looking young.
A cruel one-liner circulating on Twitter ran: "He's not crying, it's just the Botox leaking."
The Russia word for tears even became a hashtag shortcut on Twitter.
But some of his supporters praised him for showing a more human side -- even if the strongman blamed his tears on a cutting wind.
Anastasia Pronina, an activist from pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi, wrote on Twitter: "Yesterday I saw Putin crying on stage and I felt so good, I had tears in my eyes myself. It was so cute."
Craggy-faced Putin has shown his emotions in the past, such as when he appeared choked at the funeral of Boris Yeltsin, the first Russian president who picked him as his successor.
However, he is better known for coarse jokes and critics said the tears outside the Kremlin were a case of too little, too late.
"We didn't see any tears about the Kursk or about the children of Beslan, by the way," wrote blogger Ilya Dombrovsky on Snob.ru website, referring to a submarine disaster in 2000 and the hostage tragedy in a school in 2004.
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