Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed wind power is harmful to worms as he joined US counterpart Donald Trump in raising left-field objections to turbine development.

Putin insisted “this is not a joke” as he told an industrial conference that turbines “shake, causing worms to come out of the soil”, Reuters reported.

The Russian leader also said he was worried about birdlife – “how many birds are dying?” – as he raised the prospect of a world covered by “rows of wind-powered generators and by several layers of solar panels”.

Gas-rich Russia is currently in the early stages of a renewables build out that targets 5.4GW in clean energy capacity by 2024, about 3.4GW from wind.

Progress in wind so far has been led by Finland’s Fortum in conjunction with local developer Rusnano, and Italian developer Enel, with industrial commitments from turbine OEMs Vestas and Siemens Gamesa.

Putin at least qualified his remarks by saying that “wind power generation is good”, marking a contrast with Trump, who rarely has a kind word for the sector.

The US President famously this year claimed wind turbines cause cancer – an assertion that even his most supportive allies have declined to back up, and was widely viewed as backfiring on Trump.