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Only a superhero can stop Putin now. Is anyone up to the challenge?

Welcome to Declassified, a weekly humor column.

“Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s that Italian bloke who used to do shirtless Ding on the beach.”

At this point, maybe only a superhero can convince Vladimir Putin to stop the war in Ukraine. Gerhard Schröder — whose superhero name is of course Gasman — tried to get Putin to see sense but without success.

Now Matteo Salvini — whose superhero name is Capitano Attention-Seeker — has tried (and failed) at the same thing. The Russian embassy in Italy said on social media that it had purchased Aeroflot tickets for a trip to Moscow for Salvini and his entourage. Salvini, who used to regularly sing Putin’s praises, claimed that the planned visit was part of efforts to stop the war. The trip never took place due to criticism from within the Italian government, of which his League party is a member.

Who’s going to be next to head to Moscow (or at least attempt to get there)? British Home Secretary Priti Patel — whose superhero name is The Deporter — could be the one to get the job done. Her plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is so callous that Putin would surely approve and, like the Russian leader, she’s constantly being upbraided for her actions by those pesky woke liberal types with their concerns about human rights and the law.

But it likely won’t be Patel who gets through to Putin. It’ll be the superhero who has been in our midst the entire time. The one person who has the power, the money and, yes, the hair to get the job done — Donald J. Trump, whose superhero name is Tiny-Fingered, Cheeto-Faced, Ferret-Wearing Shitgibbon Man. Actually, maybe Trump is more like the Incredible Hulk in that he gets very angry very quickly, his trousers (or pants, if you will) don’t fit, and his skin changes color.

But, like Batman waiting in line at the commune to get planning permission for an extension to Wayne Manor, Trump has some administrative problems to sort out before he can don his cape and fly in for talks with Putin, in the form of a congressional inquiry into the Capitol riot of January 6, 2021.

Trump has of course slammed the inquiry, calling it a “kangaroo court” that’s designed to distract Americans from the “disaster” of Democratic governance. Exactly the kind of talk that Putin would love.

CAPTION COMPETITION

“Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s reaction to his success in the first round of the French parliamentary election was considered slightly over the top.”

Can you do better? Email [email protected] or on Twitter @pdallisonesque

Last week we gave you this photo:

Thanks for all the entries. Here’s the best from our postbag — there’s no prize except for the gift of laughter, which I think we can all agree is far more valuable than cash or booze.

“I’m glad you like Paddington Bear too, as we’ll be eating him for dinner this evening,” by Clive Ponsonby.

Paul Dallison is POLITICO‘s slot news editor.

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