“Doesn’t he really understand that such cheap tricks only irritate people?” one person wrote in an online post about the pike.
One user posted a joke in which the pike asks Putin to let it go; in return, the fish will fulfill his wishes. Replies Putin: “Are you dumb? There are people, enough to spare, who want to carry out my wishes. ... And you will be turned into cutlets.”
This last part proved true: Peskov told reporters that the pike was cut up for cooking.
Staunch Putin supporter and Kremlin adviser Sergei Markov said the Kremlin's image-makers might have overdone things a bit this time.
“Vladimir Putin loves to position himself not only as a tough [guy], which he really is, but as an ordinary man who deeply and sincerely loves nature and animals, the image that is generally welcomed by the public at large as natural and attractive,” Markov, who is vice president of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, said in an interview. “But I think it would play kind of better if he had caught a big pike but not a giant pike.”
“Although," he added, "I am sure neither Putin nor Peskov would lie about the pike’s weight!"
[For the record, 1:01 p.m. PDT, July 28: An earlier version of this article referred to the television show Vestri. The correct name is Vesti.]