Russian President Vladimir Putin visited and cuddled with a Persian leopard Tuesday at a preserve near Sochi, an environmental initiative that was tied to the Olympics.
Putin visited the leopard preserve in Sochi National Park, a sanctuary that was created five years ago as a part of Olympics plans. The animals, which were friendly to Putin but scratched and bit a few journalists in attendance, will be released to repopulate southern Russia, where they are currently nonexistent.
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“Let’s say that because of the Olympic Games, we have restored parts of the destroyed nature,” Putin said, according to The Associated Press
. He added, after petting and holding the leopard, “We liked each other.”
The Telegraph reported that the preserve and other environmental efforts
were to make up for destruction that took place as Sochi underwent infrastructure construction for the Olympics.
Putin said such efforts led to “an overall improvement, not deterioration,” of the Sochi environment. There has been disagreement on this issue among environmentalists, the Telegraph said.
Later in the day, Putin attended a meeting of the International Olympic Committee. He talked about the tremendous efforts that went into preparing the Sochi area for the Olympics, and how Russians worked hard to complete the necessary work in time for the games.
“We realize what a difficult decision this was to hold the games in a city that barely had 10 to 15 percent of the necessary infrastructure,” Putin said to the committee, the AP reported. “You believed in us, you believed in the Russian character which can overcome all difficulties.”
Putin’s visit to the leopard preserve was fodder for online commenters.
Others focused on the reports that some of the leopards took a swipe at journalists.
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