Vladimir Putin helps release three Amur tigers into the wild

Female tiger refused to leave her cage despite Putin's efforts to free the animal

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The Independent Online

On Wednesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a $400 billion gas deal with China. But his list of "weekly accomplishments" doesn't end there.

Mr Putin, an avid sportsman with a Judo black belt, has also helped release three rare, orphaned tigers in the remote Amur region in eastern Siberia.

Yesterday, Russian television showed footage of Mr Putin, dressed in jeans and a leather jacket, tugging on a rope to help open the gates and let the tigers- two males and a female- run into the wild.

The males, Borya and Kuzia, rushed out of their cages, getting their first taste of freedom, but their sister, Ilona, refused to follow Mr Putin's orders who banged the cage with a metal stick, but to no avail.

The Russian leader, who often indulges in macho outdoor escapades involving guns and bare chest displays, reportedly shot one of the animals with a tranquiliser gun so doctors could put a GPS tracking device on it.

The Kremlin said the tigers will be monitored for a year.