‘Ordinary guy’ Putin meets snow leopard

‘Ordinary guy’ Putin meets snow leopard
(AFP) – 6 hours ago

MOSCOW — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stood metres away from a snow leopard in his latest stunt involving a threatened animal but insisted Monday he was just an “ordinary guy” in touch with Russia’s problems.

Putin knelt metres away from the snow leopard, kept in a wire-mesh enclosure, as the mythical animal warily eyed the man who has dominated Russia for the last decade in Siberia, state television pictures showed.

The close encounter with the creature — one of the mascots for the 2014 Sochi Olympics championed by Putin — helped further burnish his tough-guy image ahead of 2012 presidential elections.

“What a beautiful little cat,” Putin, dressed in a Russian hat and a quilted jacket marked with the Russian eagle and the initials V.V. Putin, whispered as he stared at the snow leopard.

There had been controversy over the fate of the snow leopard, a 10-year-old named Mongol, which the Russian branch of the World Wildlife Fund said had been languishing in captivity since its capture on March 14 by scientists in a neighbouring area.

The animal was then taken by helicopter to Khakasia in southern Siberia and the WWF on Thursday issued a statement calling for the animal to be urgently returned to the wild.

Mongol was finally released at the weekend just after Putin’s visit but the WWF said it would not be giving further comment on the issue for the moment.

In an interview with Russian state television, Putin said that Russia’s protection of endangered species like the snow leopard was symbolic of how the country had changed over the last years.

“That one of the symbols of the Olympics is a beast that was wiped out by man in the 1950s shows that Russia is different. Russia cares about nature, about its riches and preserves them for future generations.”

Putin has now over the last years met the full range of Russia’s rarest big beasts, ranging from bears and tigers in the Far East and a polar bear in the Far North.

But in the interview, Putin said he had lived simply almost all his life “with the exception of the last 10 years”.

“I lived like a normal ordinary guy and I will keep this link all my life,” he added. “Whenever I take a decision, I think about how this will impact the ordinary citizen,” he added.

Copyright © 2011 AFP.

2 thoughts on “‘Ordinary guy’ Putin meets snow leopard”

  1. All the media sources are now reporting the Mongol was released at the point of his capture in Sayano-Shushensky Zapovednik on the 19th.

    There are several pictures of him taken during his captivity here:




    In Khakassiya, Putin views a snow leopard – symbol of the Olympics in Sochi

    20:50 19/03/2011

    Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, 19 Mar – RIA News Agency. The Prime Minister’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov reported that en route to Sakhalin, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stopped over in Khakassiya and saw a snow leopard.

    “Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made a stop in Khakassiya on a Friday night-Saturday morning flight to Sakhalin,” Peskov told journalists.

    According to Peskov, there Putin made the acquaintance of a snow leopard trapped several days earlier in Krasnoyarsk Krai. “The Prime Minister is actively engaged in wild animal conservation,” said Peskov.

    The male snow leopard was captured several days earlier in Krasnoyarsk Krai. The snow leopard is one of the symbols of the Sochi Olympics. Putin controls several wildlife conservation programs for Siberian tigers, beluga whales, and polar bears.

    In August 2008, Putin visited Ussurisky Zapovednik, located 100 km outside of Vladivostok, where he collared a Siberian tiger with a satellite-tracking collar. At that time, Putin and specialists from Kronotsky Zapovednik on Kamchatka participated in a scientific expedition to study gray whales. Putin shot a whale with a specialized harpoon used to collect skin samples from the gray whale. In summer 2009 in Khabarovsk Krai, Putin place a satellite-tracking collar on a beluga whale known as Dasha. In April 2010 during a trip to Franz Josef Land, Putin joined a scientific expedition to study and increase the population of polar bears in the Arctic and while there radio-collared a polar bear.

    In May 2010, Putin released one of two female leopards from Iran from cages into exhibit spaces in Sochi National Park

    [omitted info about Mongol’s capture, clearly taken from the Severtsov Institute press release, including information about Mongol’s wounds]

    [omitted general info about snow leopards in general]

    Translated by Jennifer Castner
    The Altai Project
    Strengthening communities and protecting nature in Altai

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