Putin Takes a Ride in a Nuclear-Capable Bomber

President Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday took a short flight on a supersonic bomber, part of his pre-election effort to project confidence and power inside Russia, and a conspicuous reminder to the West of his country’s nuclear capabilities.

The flight took only 30 minutes, the Kremlin said in a statement, but the range of the wide-wing Tu-160M, also known as a White Swan in Russia, allows it to reach the United States with two dozen nuclear weapons aboard.

Russian state television showed Mr. Putin, 71, climbing up the stairs under the giant warplane, one of the largest and heaviest in the world, before it took off from the runaway of an airfield in Kazan, a city east of Moscow. The Kremlin released a video of Mr. Putin’s flight, showing him sitting in a pilot’s seat.

Upon disembarking the plane, Mr. Putin told reporters that the flight left a good impression and praised the new modernized bomber as “very reliable.”

Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, told state television that Mr. Putin made the decision to take the flight spontaneously on Thursday when he visited an aviation factory in Kazan, where he inspected four modernized Tu-160M bombers.

But since he became Russian president more than two decades ago, Mr. Putin has become known for publicity stunts, designed to cast him as a strong leader of a great power.

Over this time, Mr. Putin has flown in a fighter jet, plunged into the sea in a submersible and steered Siberian cranes to their winter habitat in a motorized hang glider. The widely covered stunts projected Mr. Putin as a physically fit and fearless leader.

The flight on the bomber appeared to be an effort to send a pointed message amid the most dire geopolitical conflict between Moscow and the West since the darkest times of the Cold War.

The Tu-160M is a modernized version of a Soviet-designed strategic bomber. A part of the Russian nuclear triad, the Tu-160M’s primary mission is to deliver nuclear bombs at long distances in case of a nuclear war. In 2005, Mr. Putin took a flight in an older version of the bomber.

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