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Putin embroiled in animal cruelty row


March 29, 2011 - London

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is being criticized over claims that a snow leopard used in the latest macho photo shoot was abducted from reserve, injured and held for a week.

Putin met the male snow leopard earlier this month when he visited a conservation program in the central Siberian region of Khakassia. Named Mongol, it had been captured 100 miles away in Krasnayask a week earlier.

The meeting followed the usual format for the prime minister's high octane visits.

He arrived by snowmobile before he was pictured admiring Mongol who had been weighed, measured and tagged with a radio collar.

The leopard was then flown back to Krasnayask and released, reports The Telegraph.

Putin has previously been seen tagging polar bears, Siberian tigers and Beluga whales.

The Prime Minister presides over conservation projects for each of these species and the animals he has tagged can be followed using the government website.

Snow leopards are one of the world's most endangered species. There are only about 100 in Russia, making them rarer than the Siberian Tiger.

Meanwhile, some Russia scientists have questioned why Mongol was abducted from his home in a nature reserve, airlifted 100 miles to a neighbouring region, and held in captivity for a week before Putin's visit on March 19.

The official explanation is that the scientists found lacerations from a hunter's snare and fresh injuries to his face - presumably incurred in fights during the rut - and decided to keep Mongol in for treatment.

But the Novaya Gazeta daily has reported that the snare was the scientists' own, and he sustained facial injuries while trying to escape.

Putin's spokesman told said that Mongol was 'ill' and allegations the animal had been held to meet Putin were groundless.

ANI

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