Putin gets to grips with polar bear during visit to Russian outpost

Vladimir Putin managed to combine his macho image with a environmental message yesterday, when he helped Russian scientists put an electronic tag on a 231kg polar bear.

"The polar bear is in danger. There are only 25,000 individuals left in the world," the Russian Prime Minister told reporters. "Receding ice caps, the melting of ice in this region of the world – all this adds to complications for the bears' habitat."

After being briefed by the leader of a Russian Geographical Society expedition on the dangers faced by the species, he went outside to be photographed, helping the scientists weigh, tag and shake the paw of the sedated polar bear.

"The paw shake was strong," the smiling 57-year-old premier said, decked out in a red polar jacket and a cap bearing Russia's national symbol, the two-headed eagle. "It is clear he is the real Lord of the Arctic."

Mr Putin was visiting Franz Josef Land, a frozen archipelago inside the Arctic Circle, 600 miles from the North Pole, inhabited only by polar bears, the scientists who study them, and a small battalion of border guards.

Known for taking an unsentimental approach to foreign and domestic politics, Putin might seem an unlikely environmentalist. But he has often let a soft spot for nature show though his steely exterior.

In the past he has been pictured on Siberian ponies and dived in a submarine to the floor of Lake Baikal, the world's deepest freshwater lake. On another memorable occasion, he "saved" a group of scientists by shooting a Siberian tiger with a tranquilizer gun after it escaped from its handlers.

No such heroics were on display this time, but like all Putin photo opportunities, this one was heavily choreographed. According to one Russian paper the polar bear, which is the symbol of Mr Putin's United Russia party, was apparently captured specially for his visit.

But the Prime Minister's affection for animals sometimes gets the better of him. At a press conference last year said that "the better I know people, the more I like dogs," before quickly back-pedalling when asked if he was talking about his ministers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)