Vladimir Putin's tiger facing blame after Chinese goats found with skulls crushed and 'puncture holes the size of a human finger'

Threat to burgeoning Sino-Russian relations

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The Independent Online

A rare Siberian tiger that defected to China after it was released into the wild by Vladimir Putin has now sparked a further challenge to Sino-Russian relations – by killing as many as five goats.

State media in China reported that two goats were found killed with their skulls crushed. Puncture holes “the size of a human finger were clearly visible”, the report said.

Three other goats belonging to local farmers in northeast China remain missing.

Experts have pegged the killings to Ustin, one of three tigers that were fitted with tracking devices and released under Putin’s supervision in a remote part of Siberia in May.

Two of the tigers, Ustin and Kuzia, were observed crossing the border into China in October – sparking fears among residents near China's Taipinggou nature reserve.

Kuzia has already been accused of causing trouble after the 19-year-old cub was blamed for the deaths of five chickens on a farm – prompting officials to say they were prepared to “release cattle” for the tigers to eat.

The diplomatic relationship between Russia and China has been increasingly strong in recent months. Even when the tigers first crossed the border, a Chinese official was quick to say that the two countries had been “working [together]on the protection of Siberian tigers for decades”