But publishing a retouched photograph of Putin's face made up in drag -- suggesting he is gay -- could now have serious consequences.
Russia has officially banned a photoshopped image showing Putin wearing heavy makeup that authorities say hints at his "alleged nonstandard sexual orientation" and also appears to have included a common slur for gay men.
The Russian Justice Ministry on March 30 included the image in its federal list of banned "extremist materials" based on May 2016 ruling by a court in the central city of Tver.
As noted by the Russian website TJ Journal, the first news organization to flag the Justice Ministry's designation, numerous such images of Putin have circulated on the Internet for years. Some show him together with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who is also shown wearing makeup.
The banned image featured a person "resembling" Putin "with makeup on his face -- painted eyelashes and lips, which, as envisioned by the author ... should serve as a hint at the alleged nonstandard sexual orientation of the president of the Russian Federation," the Justice Ministry said in its designation, repeating the language of the Tver court.
The image was accompanied by a caption that appeared to use a homophobic slur to compare Putin's "voters" with LGBT people, adding "they say there are a lot of them, but I don't know any."
The pejorative was redacted in the court ruling, but phrasing in the caption is consistent with an Internet meme that uses a slur against gay people.
Neither the Tver court's ruling nor the Justice Ministry designation indicates whether the photograph of Putin or the caption was the determining factor in deeming the image illegal.
Russian authorities have moved to aggressively squelch what they call "extremist" material online in recent years, according to rights advocates and activists who track hate-speech cases.
Critics of the crackdown say it targets not only racist hate speech but also legitimate political speech that is protected by the constitution.
Putin has also been denounced for signing laws that his liberal opponents call openly homophobic, including a 2013 law that bans the spreading of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" among minors.
Putin says the legislation, commonly known as the "gay propaganda" law, is aimed at protecting children but does not infringe on LGBT rights.
Rights watchdogs say the law has bolstered a sense of impunity among right-wing groups who carry out acts of violence against LGBT people.
Many ultranationalists accuse Putin and his government of being too tolerant of minority groups. They also frequently espouse views Tsvetkov appeared to endorse with the now-banned images -- including the one showing Putin in makeup -- that he posted on Vkontakte.