Happy Birthday Mr. Putin: Who Will Win Russia’s Battle of the Calendars?

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NewsFeed is only six months old, but we have it on good authority that turning 58 can be a time for personal reflection. But if you’re Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, everyone wants to get involved.

To wit: no sooner than a day after 12 Russian journalism students released a racy calendar in honor of his birthday, six of their colleagues hit back with a slightly more contentious version. The rival effort notes the alleged murders and curbs on freedom that they say have taken place on Putin’s watch.

The first calendar was titled “Vladimir Vladimirovich, We Love You! Happy Birthday, Mr Putin!” Clad in lacy lingerie, every participant had a speech bubble with phrases such as “Can I be your co-pilot?,” “How about a third go?” (a not so subtle reference to the likelihood of his returning for a third stint as president one day), and, in no way making light of the serious news story from earlier this year on the Russian heatwave, “You put out the fires, but I’m still burning.” (See TIME.com’s photos of the Russian wildfires.)

Now fighting fire with fire, if you will, the new calendar attempts to extinguish any enthusiasm. “Who killed Anna Politkovskaya?” is the question posed by Yekaterina Ulianova, in a plain black outfit with yellow tape over her mouth. One of the Kremlin’s toughest critics, Politkovskaya was the journalist shot dead on Putin’s birthday four years ago today. Other questions include, “When will the next terrorist attack be?”

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said he’s unaware of the critical calendar but had this to say on the first one: “I hope these girls study as well as they look.” Peskov is planning to show the PM some images this evening. It doesn’t bear thinking about what might be on tap for Putin’s 60th.