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Putin built the $3.6 billion bridge in defiance of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin is fond of activities that accentuate his manliness, like bare-chested horseback riding, not-bare-chested polar exploration, and promoting the Russian limousine and wicked-looking armored car industries. Now he has taken on the role of trucker to unveil a new road-and-rail bridge linking Russia to the annexed Crimean peninsula.

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Is this the least bit surprising?

He was inspecting ice caves and attending the International Arctic Forum.

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It seems like you can't turn on the news this year without seeing the icy stare of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Whether he's opening the Olympics, sending troops to the Ukrainian border or just riding a horse while shirtless, he's seemingly everywhere. But behind the scenes, Putin has a big engineering project under development to create a new Russian-built and engineered official limousine for him and other top officials.

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A few years ago Russian president Dmitri Medvedev decided he wanted officials to be chauffeured in Russian limousines, not the German executive sedans everyone had become accustomed to (such as the Mercedes-Benz pictured above). Naturally, that meant turning to Russia's own ZiL to create a litter worthy of a plutocrat and glorious Russian history. The plan had two big problems, the first being that ZiL stopped making limos in 1991 and was only producing trucks and armored military vehicles.

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Russian premier Vladimir Putin is known as a brutishly dictatorial politician. But that's not all he's known for. He's also a consummate lady's man, and a lover of Russian cars.

Renault R30 F1 car – click above for high-res image gallery

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin himself has said that at the behest of Magna, Russia's GAZ conglomerate is considering taking a 30% interest in Opel. GAZ, though, has made it clear that it does not want to run or own Opel – what it really seems to want is to have cars to produce at its factory in Nizhny Novgorod. Under such a proposal, Automotive News reports that Magna would take 20% of Opel.

Lada C Concept - Click above for a high-res gallery

Here's one way to clear traffic jams – become the Russian President. The above picture shows you how a typical Moscow street looks at pretty much any time of day. It's bumper-to-bumper traffic as far as the eye can see. But to paraphrase Mel Brooks in History of the World, Part I, "It's good to be the Pres." When President Putin has to get somewhere in a hurry, they make sure he can arrive in a timely fashion. The following photo shows how the same streets look when his Mercedes Limo and G